‘America’s Got Talent’ Is Embracing Change With 3 New Faces — But the Fans Are Still Divided

Trae Patton/NBC

Unstoppable reality series America’s Got Talent is debuting a new act for Season 14. Only two familiar faces will remain when the NBC talent show—which has been summer’s most-watched series for all of its seasons except one—comes back mid-year: judges Simon Cowell and Howie Mandel.

Both Heidi Klum and Mel B, who have rounded out the panel since 2013, are departing, along with Tyra Banks, who hosted for two seasons after taking up the post from Nick Cannon.

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The last time AGT faced a shake-up this drastic was when the encouraging and fashion-forward Klum and Mel B came aboard (and Sharon Osbourne departed). Their debut in Season 8 drew 11.2 million viewers, up from Season 7’s opener (10.5 million). Our online survey finds that 51 percent of respondents still plan to watch the juggernaut even without Klum and Mel B.

The one exit most likely to affect tune-in would be Cowell’s. Viewership jumped by nearly 1.2 million when he joined the panel in 2016. Since then, AGT has averaged more viewers than it did in the four years before Cowell. Luckily, the Brit, who is much more positive toward contestants than he was when judging American Idol, signed a new multiyear deal last August, so that’s one big red “X” fans won’t have to face anytime soon.

Now poised to hit their Golden Buzzers are Dancing With the Stars alum Julianne Hough and actress Gabrielle Union. Hough brings years of experience as a competitive dancer, as well as a DWTS judge, to the panel. While Union doesn’t have a reality show on her résumé, the actress, author and activist is bound to bring her quick wit and empathy to her commentary.

Meanwhile, the funny and energetic Terry Crews, who hosted America’s Got Talent: The Champions this winter, moves into a full-time role on the flagship. “[Terry’s] just one of those great guys you’re lucky enough to meet in your life, and he’s fitted in perfectly on this,” Cowell said during Champions‘ February 18 finale.

Gabrielle Union and Julianne Hough

All three of the new cast members have tweeted their excitement. “The talent on this show is absolutely outstanding, and I have no doubt this next season is going to WOW,” Hough wrote. Union shared a rousing, “So excited about this! Let’s go!” And Crews paid homage to the series’ previous hosts. “With great success comes great responsibility,” he tweeted. “I respect this show and I hope to bring as much passion and energy to the job, just like Tyra Banks, Nick Cannon, Regis Philbin and Jerry Springer have all done.”

What’s next for the departing trio? Klum — who tweeted “I will be watching and voting from home!” — is launching a fashion-related reality series with former Project Runway costar Tim Gunn on Prime Video. Mel B will be reverting to her Scary Spice persona as she tours the U.K. with the reunited Spice Girls this summer. Banks plans to focus on producing.

As for the success of the new panel, America will be the judge.

America’s Got Talent, Returns 2019, NBC