Get ready for something entirely new on “America’s Got Talent” Season 15. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, NBC’s long-running reality TV show had to completely rethink its strategy for this all-important middle round, where the acts that earned “yes” votes in their auditions get culled down before the live shows. For years, producer Simon Cowell has thought the Judge Cuts were a “drop of energy,” but that won’t be the case in 2020. Watch your first sneak peek of the new format above before it airs Tuesday, July 28.
Instead of four episodes that dwindle down the number of acts based on the judges’ feedback, there will only be one this time around. The “AGT” panelists — Simon, Howie Mandel, Sofia Vergara and Heidi Klum, back from her sick leave — will cut the acts while social distancing in directors chairs. The performers who survive will join the list of Golden Buzzers in the upcoming live shows.
In addition, the show’s Hollywood set has been designed to look like a drive-in movie theater and the judges will arrive in old-fashioned cars. “You look like James Bond,” Heidi tells Simon after he drives up for the first time. Howie gets big laughs when he pulls up in his yellow chicken-mobile.
The core four leave their cars behind and approach an enormous television screen, which is where they’ll watch videos of all of the contestants. “That’s not big enough,” Simon jokes to the others and to host Terry Crews. “It’s like my TV in my bathroom. I want a bigger one.”
In an earlier interview, Simon confessed, “I could see the relief on the crew’s faces that they were back at work and then we turned around the corner to the set we’d built and it was honestly one of the most amazing experiences I can remember for a long time.”
The British judge added there’s a “real buzz of excitement” for the Judge Cuts that’s been missing in years past. “I always felt [like we] dropped in energy on the middle rounds, so I was always keen to change those middle shows. They never quite felt right to me. I personally now would stick to this new way we’ve done it not just for the present but for the future. I think it is a better show this year than it has been on previous years.”
Following the single Judge Cuts episode on July 28, NBC will air a 15th anniversary special on August 4. Then the live shows will begin airing on August 11 for multiple weeks. In the past, the live rounds filmed at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood in front of thousands of screaming fans.