For years Simon Cowell hasn’t really been in love with the Judge Cuts round of “America’s Got Talent.” Going from the Pasadena-set auditions, where about 3,000 screaming fans fill NBC’s reality TV show with love and laughter, to the intimate setting of the Judge Cuts, where only about 250 people watch in the Dolby Theatre, has always been a big “drop in energy,” Simon tells our sister site Deadline. However, because the coronavirus pandemic shut down much of Hollywood, it forced the “AGT” producers to come up with an exciting new twist for the upcoming Season 15 Judge Cuts.
Instead of four episodes that dwindle down the number of acts based on the judges’ feedback, there will only be one for this 2020 cycle. On July 28, the judging panel — Simon, Howie Mandel, Sofia Vergara and Heidi Klum, back from her sick leave — will cut the acts from 72 to 60 while social distancing in directors chairs. But that’s not at all. The entire Simi Valley set has been designed to look like a drive-in movie theater and the judges will arrive in old-fashioned cars.
Simon confesses, “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 this year’s Judge Cuts that’s been missing in years past.
Speaking about the new format, Simon explains, “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, but word is still out on what the plan will be this year. Simon confirms that safety is the show’s “number one priority.”
Here’s a closer look at the upcoming schedule for “America’s Got Talent” Season 15:
July 7 — Auditions continue
July 14 — Auditions continue
July 21 — Best-of auditions special
July 28 — Judge Cuts
August 4 — 15th anniversary special
August 11 — Live shows begin for multiple weeks