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HOME > America's Got Talent > America's Got Talent 8

'America's Got Talent' judges Melanie Brown and Howie Mandel talk about new season


By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 06/04/2013 

America's Got Talent returns to NBC tonight with its eighth-season premiere.

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Heidi Klum and Melanie Brown -- the former Spice Girls member and Dancing with the Stars participant commonly known as "Mel B" -- will join returning judges Howard Stern and Howie Mandel on the show's panel this summer.

The addition of Mel B. and the Project Runway host and supermodel marks the first time in America's Got Talent history the show will feature four judges. Heidi and Mel B. are replacing Sharon Osbourne, who chose to leave the reality talent competition at the conclusion of last season.

During a recent conference call with reporters, Mel B. and Howie talked about the upcoming edition and what viewers can expect to see. Check back with Reality TV World soon for more.

Going into the new season with a comedian winning last year, kind of breaking that streak of singers and musicians, how do you think that'll change the dynamic of the show this season?

Melanie Brown: Go on, Howie.

Howie Mandel: Okay, I will. But truth be told, you know in -- Season 2 was won by Terry Fator who was a -- you know, a ventriloquist. And, I think the heart and soul of our show is that we are the last bastion of variety, you know, and we truly have variety. 

And this year with the advent of adding two more judges, great judges, Mel -- and I'm not saying that because she's on the phone, but an international superstar in her own right -- and Heidi, an international marketer and fashion icon, and that has made it harder for acts to get through because now we need three yes's instead of just two.

And they have just raised the level of, I guess, maybe the audience at home seeing what they can do and get away with, and they don't have to be just that traditional singer or that traditional dancer. They can do absolutely anything.

And I don't know if it was about a comedian last year as much as it was about people who -- like even people like Horse who -- not that that's a great talent, but the fact that he had the nerve to get up and call what he did, getting kicked in the scrotum, talent -- people will show up and do everything.  So we had more dangerous acts, more exciting acts, more wacky acts, and more brilliant, classic talent than we've ever had before.

Melanie Brown: But I do think it's harder for comedians because the bar's been set so high. And, I think it's terrifying for a comedian because that audience is huge and they have to make us laugh and the audience laugh, and it doesn't always go to plan. Really it doesn't.  I will imagine that it's really terrifying.

Howie Mandel: I will tell you that, you know -- and to her credit, Mel B. this year, we've had a couple of comedians on, and if they don't rise to the occasion, she pulls no punches in telling them.

"I'm going to tell you why I don't like you -- because you're not funny," and she's right.  But that's what you want from a judge, you know?  And it's just really interesting watching people perform.  So there's that element that I don't know was there before. Just the brutal honesty with a lot of experience.

Melanie Brown:  Yes.

In what ways do you guys feel having four judges now this season is going to kind of spice up the judging table a little bit?

Melanie Brown:  I think it really has, because you know, we're four different people. We've all come from different backgrounds and we've all experienced a lot in our own professional careers. So sometimes, we all agree when the act is amazing. Sometimes we -- well more often than not, we actually disagree. But, we've all got valid points because our opinions are coming from a place of professionalism.

So I find that really interesting, and I've learned a lot off these other three judges, especially you Howie, because I sit next to you. So it's really -- I think it's a really, really interesting dynamic and definitely the viewer is going to agree with two or more of us of what we're actually saying.

Howie Mandel: I personally was concerned, and I thought, "Maybe this is going to be too much."  And as it works out, it actually heightened the value of people that go through to even Las Vegas.

And I think I said it before and I'm repeating myself, but the fact that they have to get three yes's to stay -- to go through, two and two doesn't get you [anywhere]. It's virtually a no, so you need three yes's. So, you have to appeal to three people.

Melanie Brown: Yes.

Howie Mandel: And our four people on the panel come from not only four different worlds of entertainment, but like from all over the world. And as Howard keeps saying, you know, we want to find an international star.

We don't want to just find somebody that wins America's Got Talent and gets the million dollars and ends up at Radio City Music Hall. We want to find somebody that's going to be an international star. And I think that this addition of these extra two judges from all over the world is going to send us in that direction.

You talked about obviously the four judges, but are there any other changes in either production or maybe the way the rounds are going? Anything like that?

Howie Mandel: The biggest changes I could see just offhand and haven't thought of it -- we're going to send 55 people to the live shows. Obviously, the live show is going to be on a real stage that means so much more than any of these other challenge shows has ever meant before.

Because even when you said you're going to Hollywood, you were going to a sound stage. And even last year, we were going to Newark and were going to a theater. But to be able to perform live on Radio City Music Hall means so much.  Any other changes? Not that I can think of off-hand.

And for Howie, why did you come back again? What was a particular reason?

Howie Mandel: I would come back as long as they continue to have me. I cannot -- I love this. I love watching and have sympathy as a fellow, you know, performer for anybody that's willing to get up and put themselves out, and anybody who's creative, and anybody who's original, and anybody -- I just love the energy and watching somebody get on stage and trying to entertain.

And talent is subjective. You know, just because you can be doing great even if you're an act that plays a stadium and 20,000 people are there, there's probably two million people in that city that chose not to buy the ticket. So there is something for everyone. 

And I love being there, and I cannot believe that this is even a job. You know, I got into this business to try to garner an audience and make a career of it. And then when I wasn't working, like the rest of the world, you sit at home in your underpants and you judge. That's what people are doing.

You go, "I don't like this. I'm going to turn the channel. That's not funny. That doesn't sound good. I don't like this music. Turn this off. Let's watch this."  That's what they do. 

And then all of a sudden in this millennium or this -- in the last few decades, this has become a job where they give you a pair of pants and a paycheck and they -- and if you have some credibility behind you and years of being in the business, hopefully you have constructive criticism as to why you don't think this is worthy of seeing anymore of it, so I just love it.

And when I'm not doing that, I go to clubs and I watch people, and I watch TV 24 hours a day. I watch things that aren't even in English. I'm just fascinated by people trying to entertain.

So Mel, you've judged on Australia's The X Factor, now you're on America's Got Talent. When you look over the talent, how do you think The Spice Girls would've done in one of these competitions?

Melanie Brown:  Oh, God knows. I have no idea. I mean, the good thing about America's Got Talent is that it's not a singing show. It's a complete variety show. So I mean, we harmonized well as five girls and we definitely have some things that everyone -- I'm not quite sure how it would rank considering that there's not just singers there.

There's dancers. There's magic acts. There's snakes. There's danger acts. So I'm not quite sure how we would do. Hopefully we would do well, but I mean we started out 20 years ago, so you know.

Howie Mandel: You would now. I think they would do well. I'm telling you -- and the reason is, and these are the things we look for. At their time, it was original.

Melanie Brown: Right.

Howie Mandel: It wasn't only four hot women singing and dancing, but there was a message. You know, that message was "girl power." A big part of America's Got Talent obviously, America votes. And a big part of the voting community are young girls who watch the show and are inspired and watching dreams come true. I they would've really touched a nerve and done really well.

Melanie Brown: There you go.

Is there one kind of an act that you think has an advantage -- do singers have it easier than dancers?

Melanie Brown: You know what? Going into this, I really thought that singers were going to have it like easy because all they have to do is stand there and belt out their voice.

But I think it's really equal across-the-board. I mean, who'd a'thought that I would love watching some ducks onstage as much as I would love watching an opera singer? I mean, it really is like a case of if you're entertaining, you're going through to the next level.

Howie, did you want to comment on that?

Howie Mandel: But I do think that -- you know, and we say it over and over again as judges. I think as a singer, you do have an advantage, but the beauty of America's Got Talent is because it's a variety show.

I think we as judges keep hammering it home to the audience to go, "All right. So this guy came out and he's got an acoustic guitar. He's a good looking guy. He's got a great voice. You want to see him. You like the sound of his voice. And, he's singing a song that's already been made popular by somebody else."

What about this guy that's been working for ten years in his basement and he's come up and he's doing something that you've never seen before? You've never heard before? And, it's just amazing.

I hope the audience takes that into consideration over what is -- can be perceived as something easier or more normal. I mean, you could see a singer/songwriter around a campfire. You could see them on a cruise. You could see them in a club.

Melanie Brown: But you see, that's why I don't think they have an advantage. I really don't because they are competing against such different acts.

Howie Mandel: Well, maybe you're right. You know, I just think that people identify with them, like a hit song or somebody who's good looking as opposed to understanding the skill that goes into the -- that goes into some of these acts that we see.

Melanie Brown: But Howie, you do know that I'm always right. I am always right. You told me that.

Howie Mandel: I'm learning. It's a learning curve. I'm learning that she's -- she thinks she's always right, and I'm getting closer to believing it. I'm not 100% percent there yet.

Melanie Brown: Okay. We'll get there.



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