Diane Haithman is a Deadline contributor.
When America’s Got Talent returns on June 4, we know there will four judges instead of the former three. Replacing Sharon Osbourne alongside Howard Stern and Howie Mandel are Heidi Klum and Mel B. But at today’s NBC Press Day, co-host Mandel revealed another wrinkle: It will now take three votes, not two, for a contestant to go through. “Two people like it and two people hate it, that’s a no,” Mandel said. “Two yeses go home”. And will it be tougher to get those three votes now that Heidi and Mel have replaced Osbourne? Klum is, after all, noted for her hard-edged phrase: “You are out!” on Project Runway. And Mel B.’s name has popped up in the press more than once for being booed by audiences during the live competition rounds.
Both new judges defended what they called their “honesty”. Klum opined that audiences tend to go crazy in support of everybody, especially contestants from their hometowns. “Seriously? This person cannot sing. They boo they want everybody to go through,” she said. She also defended Mel B. in light of the press attention to her boos: “They were just looking for something to write about,” Klum said. On the sillier side, Stern began a running joke about how all the press questions were being asked of Klum instead of the other panelists: himself, Mandel, Mel B., host Nick Cannon and executive producers Jason Raff and Sam Donnelly. “Didn’t you get the memo? I’m the star of the show,” Stern mock-complained. Other panelists alternated in protesting: “Another Heidi question?”
Later, Stern also joked that the three-vote rule doesn’t make any difference because “I have veto power” over any and all votes. Still, the usually snarky comedian did a little Hollywood-style gushing over his fellow judges, saying: “It’s delightful working with this panel. It’s so much fun. When you have nice people like this. It’s really quite pleasant”. Despite rumors of friction between Stern and Osbourne, Stern called both Mandel and Osbourne “gracious” colleagues last season. After the session, Mandel told Deadline the same story. “They love each other”, he said of Stern and Osbourne. “Obviously Howard and I are great friends with her and we miss her and she was a great asset to the show. That being said, the show will be different and great. Different is good too”.
Also after the panel, Raff said that NBC made the decision to go from 3 to 4 judges “because it brings more experience to the table.” He added he never saw any off-camera tension between Stern and Osbourne. “There are shows that foster competition between the judges, and we have 4 very opinionated judges”, Raff said. “They disagree and they fight, but when they have said their opinion, they respect each other’s opinion”.