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Howard Stern’s dubious ‘Talent’

The king of all media bows as a reality show judge

America's Got Talent certainly gave it a monumental buildup. The NBC summer series kicked off its seventh season last night with a helicopter shot of host Nick Cannon standing atop a pinnacle, screaming "Are you ready for the revolution? Howard Stern!"

Then there was a long video montage of various talking heads all obsessing about Howard's new gig, set curiously to the strains of the Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil".

So how could Stern's first night on the judging panel of AGT be anything but anticlimactic?

At least Howard brought energy to the gig. And say this for him, he was quick on the buzzer. But then faced with this cavalcade of clownishness, who wouldn't have been? Maybe Hasselhof.

As much as the show wanted to surround Howard with interesting acts on his first program, taped at auditions in Los Angeles and St. Louis, the auditioners didn't cooperate. In the end, you simply can't escape the fact that Stern is hosting a cheesy talent show, one in which clown time prevails over art by a factor of about 25 to 1.

And the sad fact is that plunged into this gong show gulag, the judges themselves end up not being able to tell the absolute dreck from the semi-interesting. They sent through a guy whose entire act was to drop a scorpion in his mouth. Encore!

For the first time in a long, daring career, Stern, pop's junkyard dog, is acting like a lap dog. And he's gone obediently mainstream for money. An astonishing, obscene amount of money. But still.

Did you ever think you'd hear Howard Stern uttering patriotic platitudes like, "You're everything that makes America great"? He's swallowed his trademark caustic sense of humor for good natured ribbing. You could swear at times on Monday night ("I had almost given up hope. I spent a lot of time listening to nudniks.") that Howard was trying to sound like his father.

Prime time Stern. You asked for it. You paid for it. You got it.

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