Ask Matt: Judging the Reality Show Judges

America's Got Talent Season 16 Heidi, Howie, Simon, Sofia
Trae Patton/NBC
America's Got Talent

Welcome to the Q&A with TV critic — also known to some TV fans as their “TV therapist” — Matt Roush, who’ll try to address whatever you love, loathe, are confused or frustrated or thrilled by in today’s vast TV landscape. (We know background music is too loud, but there’s always closed-captioning.)

One caution: This is a spoiler-free zone, so we won’t be addressing upcoming storylines here unless it’s already common knowledge. Please send your questions and comments to [email protected] (or use the form at the end of the column) and follow me on Twitter (@TVGMMattRoush). Look for Ask Matt columns on many Tuesdays and Fridays.

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Giving Sofia the Hook

Question: I have never written to you before, but I do have a question. Am I the only one concerned with the behavior of Sofia Vergara on America’s Got Talent? If someone doesn’t agree with her, she starts an argument. It’s happened a few times. One day when one of her favorites didn’t win, she turned around to the audience and said, “What’s wrong with you people?” It’s a contest and people can vote any way they want. I don’t think you should make a comment to the audience. It’s in bad taste. It’s also a family show and dress should be appropriate. — Raemath

Matt Roush: I’m sure you’re not alone, but I’d also bet that Sofia is behaving, and dressing, exactly how the producers hope and expect she would. (She wasn’t exactly a shrinking violet on Modern Family or her countless commercial appearances.) This kind of heightened behavior from the judges is what the genre calls for — for instance, I always kept the mute button handy whenever So You Think You Can Dance’s Mary Murphy (who I otherwise enjoyed) went on a screaming fit. Likewise, they expect judges to give over-the-top reactions when one of their favorites doesn’t go through. Why take it personally? But this discussion illustrates why, on the very rare occasion that I tune into Talent anymore, I speed through the judges’ comments. They are absolutely my least favorite aspect of the show.

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Are Talent’s Production Values Over the Top?

Question: America’s Got Talent has gone completely bonkers. My family and friends have always watched it and then enjoyably discussed it for several days afterward. Now the discussions usually hover around whether to stop watching or to stick with it (thank God for fast-forwarding!) and hope it will get better. It’s become way, waaaaaay overproduced. The lighting and constant movement of the Vegas-like production sets are obnoxious and distract from the performers, who themselves have not been on a level with those of previous years. This is bad enough, but to then hear Simon Cowell oozing compliments and telling them they’re the best ever to appear on the show is unbelievable at best. Whatever happened to the real (?) Simon of abrupt honesty in his evaluation of performances? So far, just the joy of watching Sofia has kept us watching, but unless something changes this will be the last season for many of us. — Iris G

Matt Roush: Can’t really disagree with this, although I’ve always found Talent to be ridiculously overproduced, but that felt in keeping with the fact that these acts are all jousting for a shot at the Vegas stage, which isn’t like playing off-Broadway. If they get overwhelmed by the bells and whistles, they’re probably on the wrong show. And I also miss the Simon of American Idol. While they let him (and others) vent some spleen when they share some of the worst of the audition rounds, I cringe when I see him gush over performances that might have earned some justifiably hard and candid truths on the show that introduced him to American audiences. But those are very different worlds, and Idol’s not what it used to be, either.

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Give the Kids Their Own Talent Show

Question: My wife and I have watched America’s Got Talent since the beginning. Why don’t the producers have a show for kids up to the age of maybe 17? — Barry G

Matt Roush: I presume you mean a spinoff that would be only for kids under a certain age. But isn’t that one of the charms (if that’s the term) of America’s Got Talent, that anyone of any age can participate? I often feel the kids almost have an unfair advantage when it comes to being an adorable novelty act, and quite a few younger performers have won their seasons. I can’t tell from this if you hate it when youngsters have their dreams crushed when they don’t make it to the very end, or if you feel it’s unfair for some of the polished adult acts to be upstaged by some precocious upstart. Either way, I doubt they’re going to mess with what has been a successful formula.

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Give the New Talent More of a Voice

Question: Why are the “coaches” on The Voice allowed to bore us with nonsense, when the idea behind the show is supposed to be for the discovery of new up-and-coming talent? I would like to listen to new talent and not sit there and watch has-beens trying to convince us that they still “got it.” — Michael K

Matt Roush: Ah, there’s the rub. I agree with you — well, maybe not the has-been part (we’re talking Ariana Grande, John Legend, Kelly Clarkson, and Blake Shelton, after all) — that the coaches regularly upstage the contestants, which may be why so few if any Voice winners have achieved the level of fame of an early American Idol champ like Kelly Clarkson. But again, this is the formula that works for The Voice, and while that keeps me from being a fan once the Blind Auditions are over — that’s the genius part of the show, every season — their star power is the engine around which everything else on this show revolves. That’s not likely to change.

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Alienated by Delays

Question: I and others have been looking for the start-up date for our favorite show, Resident Alien. When I received TV Guide Magazine’s Returning Favorites issue with a fall calendar, I thought it’s gotta be there, but no Resident Alien. Just what is Syfy waiting on? It was one of the most popular new shows last season. Please don’t tell us they canceled it. What’s going on? — Simon H

Matt Roush: Relax. Resident Alien and its should-be-Emmy-nominated star Alan Tudyk, will be back, just not in the fall. Not every series is a fall series, and that especially applies to short-order cable series like Alien, whose first 10-episode season aired last winter. Syfy hasn’t released an official premiere date yet for Alien’s second season, but it’s a good guess that it might return during that same general time frame. (The Returning Favorites issue only covers the months between September and late November, figuring not a lot of new programming premieres between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. But come January, watch out — and look out for the Winter Preview.)

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Status Reports

Question: Wondering if there will ever be a third season of Condor? Anything new on that? — Lucas

Matt Roush: Nothing lately. This spy thriller was one of the shows affected when AT&T’s Audience Network went away. Two seasons were filmed, and the second will get its official U.S. premiere on Epix starting Nov. 7. (The first season aired in March.) Because no mention has been made, yet, of a third season, and it has already been two years since the second season was filmed, it seems the best chance Condor has for a comeback is if Epix is pleased enough with its performance to put it back into play. I’d think the chances are slim, but because MGM (which operates Epix) was one of the show’s producers and distributors, maybe a miracle will happen.

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Question: Whatever happened to Songland? Will it ever come back? My family and I really enjoyed it. — Dean

Matt Roush: This terrific songwriting competition, which aired on NBC in the summer of 2019 and the spring of 2020, is no longer listed on NBC’s press website, so we should consider it not currently active. But like so many series in the reality space, it was never officially canceled, either, to my knowledge. So it’s always possible we’ll see it again someday. I hope so, anyway.

Question: When will the new episode of Jesse Stone be on TV? George M

Matt Roush: They’ll have to make it first. This is a perennial question, and while Tom Selleck has said many times that he hopes to get another movie in the franchise written and filmed during one of his breaks from Blue Bloods, that hasn’t yet happened. If and when a 10th Jesse Stone movie is produced, it will likely air on one of the Hallmark channels, which aired the ninth and so far last of the series, which began on CBS back in 2005, when broadcast networks still aired TV-movies.

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That’s all for now. We can’t do this without your participation, so please keep sending questions and comments about TV to [email protected] or shoot me a line on Twitter (@TVGMMattRoush), and you can also submit questions via the handy form below. (Please include a first name with your question.)