Howard Stern is one of the most divisive personalities in the country. His reputation over decades on radio was raunchy, immature, crass. He’s the name you see the most when the phrase “shock jock” is mentioned. The Parents Television Council considers him the bogeyman.
So he was the perfect guy to join the most popular summer TV show, right?
“America’s Got Talent” ratings for its first episode was about 10.3 million, according to early Nielsen estimates. That’s down from 15.3 million a year ago, a nearly one-third drop. Ratings 18-49 only dropped by about 15 percent, from 4.3 to 3.6 so Stern may have scared away more older viewers than younger ones.
So far, the feedback online and on Twitter has been mostly positive. He told critics that he knows how to behave on broadcast TV, having been under FCC restrictions for most of his career. And based on the edited version of Stern we saw Monday night, he made only a few references to sexual matters.
For instance, he said the first guy, a stripper-magician, appeared to be modestly endowed, then noting that he is, too, a standard retort he’s made over the decades.
Stern was bluntly honest, but in a warm, friendly way. While he would insult a poor performer, he did it in a way that felt more like a concerned uncle than just a mean guy for the sake of being the mean guy.
His best improvised line of the night:
“Has someone in your life said to you, ‘This isn’t for you?’ ” he said to one bad singer. “A parent, maybe?”
“My parents are dead,” he said.
“Did they die of embarrassment?” Stern cracked.
He has said on his Sirius/XM show that he loves talent shows and it showed. He joined Simply Sergio on stage after the man started crying and hugged him. (The man sang poorly, then much better in his second effort. Redemption!) He needled both Howie and Sharon. He danced with a sexy male sax player. Heck – he even said the following: “This is going to sound sappy. We are the greatest country in the world. You are everything that makes America great.”
Otherwise, the format is the same eclectic mix of talent and so-called talent: a female singer with cockatiels on her shoulders, a guy who shoves a scorpion in his mouth and a dog ventriloquist. The background music during montage portions are always painstakingly loud and the editing manipulations throw anything remotely close to subtlety out the window.
Jimmy Baron, formerly of 99X and Dave FM, Tweeted this morning to beg to differ with me and others, saying the segments felt “forced and scripted. Friendly, likable, antiseptic Howard is terrible.”
By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk