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Howard Stern isn’t ruining ‘America’s Got Talent,’ but something is

“America’s Got Talent” is off to a slow start this summer and reasons why abound.

"America's Got Talent" is off to a slow start this summer and reasons why abound.

Is it because Howard Stern's presence has turned off a portion of the show's fan base wary of the shock jock's radio persona? Because the first-run competition is much tougher so far than last year's rerun competition, and the show's ratings will rise as it gets deeper into summer? Or have people realized that the show is, to put it simply ... worse?

While Tattle has long been a fan of the cheerful, low-key, "Britain's Got Talent," this year's "AGT" has given short shrift to variety-show charm (and quality acts) and played up the judges' reactions and the audience's Roman Colosseum mob mentality. Never before have we seen so many shots of audience members screaming "You suck!" or "Do something crazy!"

And Stern is not the problem. He's gone out of his way to be gracious and family-friendly — even if he did go overboard in his affection for a guy whose act was to repeatedly get kicked in the groin — but Stern's presence has made the production team throw more bones to what it believes is Stern's audience. While "AGT" has always been a more crass version of "BGT," with its emphasis on making it to Las Vegas and winning a million dollars as opposed to performing before the royal family, the show did still remain a fun version of "Star Search" on steroids.

This year it's gotten mean.

Instead of audience members getting a laugh out of the bad acts, they now revel in their awfulness — demanding their dismissal with a cacophony of catcalls and boos and crossing their arms into x's. Is this the response of "The Hunger Games Generation"?

Whatever, it's turning people off.

Even after a debut nearly 30 percent down from last year's, Monday's episode (granted, it was against the "House" finale) lost 10 percent of that audience.

Perhaps fearing the drop and seeking a water-cooler moment, on the Monday night "AGT," Stern and Sharon Osbourne buzzed 7-year-old rapper Amir Palmer, from Philadelphia, and the boy cried. Stern then went up onstage to console Amir and told him he was going to Las Vegas. Host Nick Cannon then had the boy face the camera and repeat that he was through to the next round.

According to the New York Post, however, Amir (a/k/a/ Mir Money) isn't going to Vegas. Producers called the family on the day that they say they were scheduled to leave and told them that Amir should unpack.

If "AGT" lied to a 7-year-old on national TV to garner a sentimental moment, that's shameful, especially when the show had such an easy solution — not to show Amir's audition. With hours and hours of taped audition footage hacked together as if by a lumberjack (the show doesn't go live until later rounds), "AGT" could have given more time to one or more other acts instead of twice embarrassing a little boy.

"AGT" network NBC, meanwhile, is — and should be — getting grief for canceling "The Sing-Off," which was by far the best vocal show on TV. If you were a fan of TV's only non-karaoke singing competition, go to SaveTheSing

And if NBC doesn't want it, Bravo should pick it up.


Kanye West's seven BET Awards nominations may have been more than anyone else's, but six of the seven came for his collaborations with Jay-Z (who had five nods of his own) and Big Sean. Mrs. Jay-Z, Beyoncé, bested her hubby with six nominations. Samuel L. Jackson will host the show on July 1. Nicki Minaj is expected to perform, and Chris Brown, as he did at the Billboard Awards, is expected to lip-synch. n

— Daily News wire services contributed to this report.