NBC's summer smash ready to roll with fifth season -- and Howie Mandel
by Ed Bark on May 26th 2010 at 11:42 pm
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Here comes the sun, along with summertime's reigning hottest show.
As with Fox's running-out-of-gas American Idol, NBC's America's Got Talent will have a new judge when Season 5 launches on June 1st. He's Howie Mandel, the Deal or No Deal maestro who says he's been an avid viewer of Talent all along.
"This is like a dream come true for me. You have no idea," Mandel says during a teleconference with TV critics that also includes charter judge Piers Morgan. "First of all, I've watched from Season 1 and I've been doing this show in my underpants -- without being a judge."
Mandel is replacing David "The Hoff" Hasselhoff, who according to Morgan decided to quit voluntarily to "do his own show, which he's now doing."
So far his only 2010 credit is the movie Dancing Ninja, currently in post-production. But Hasselhoff made other news this month with reports that he'd again been hospitalized for a recurring drinking problem. A video of the former Baywatch star eating a hamburger on the floor while slurring his words in the presence of his teenage daughter went viral on youtube before it was taken down. When asked by Morgan during the teleconference whether he's "the new Hoff," Mandel riffed, "I was eating burgers and drinking vodka with my kids last night."
He quickly thought better of going any further with that, leaving Morgan to say of Hasselhoff, "I miss the noisiness, I miss the shouting, I miss the occasional threats of violence. I miss the whole circus that comes with David Hasselhoff . . . David wasn't a standup comedian, but the occasional level of comedy was extremely high."
Last summer's fourth high-rated season of Talent dovetailed with the emergence of singing sensation Susan Boyle on Britain's Got Talent. Morgan, who's a judge on both versions, credited Boyle's out-of-nowhere star turn with a "50 to 60 percent" increase in U.S. applicants for this summer's Talent.
Morgan also said that the singers on Talent end up being better than the ones on Idol, in large part because a number of good ones are sent home early in the interests of diversifying the contestants.
"We don't want to just have a singing competition," he said, noting that ventriloquist Terry Fator, the Season 3 winner, has his own theater in Las Vegas and a $100 million contract. Last summer's competition, however, was won by singing chicken farmer Kevin Skinner of Kentucky.
Mandel said that he and Morgan frequently clashed during this season's taped early rounds. They mostly disagreed over the worthiness of novelty acts, such as a contestant who "blew up his underpants with gun powder," as Mandel put it.
"I embrace the craziness. I think we're lacking that today," said Mandel, who as a formative standup comic placed surgical gloves over his head and inflated them by blowing through his nose. "If you're certifiably insane and ultimately just own it, there's something to be said for that, too."
Morgan said he couldn't wait for viewers to see some of the acts that Mandel wanted to keep in play.
"He will need every ounce of his sense of humor, once it's made public who he has chosen. I didn't think anyone could be more annoying than David Hasselhoff. But Howie Mandel is . . . He saw it as his daily mission to wind me up."
"I want to get slapped by the end of the season," Mandel said.
One more thing. Morgan said he's long grown weary of the hearts-and-flowers baggage that increasing numbers of contestants bring with them.
"Some of them come on with the most ridiculous sob stories, and expect us to fall for them," he said.
"What Piers is saying is he's got a heart of ice," Mandel jabbed.
They should be good together.