If you watched the series premiere of “America’s Got Talent: Extreme” on Monday night, you probably found yourself scratching your head when you caught your first glimpse of the judges’ table. Simon Cowell was there as usual, but his cohorts Howie Mandel, Heidi Klum and Sofia Vergara were all missing and replaced by WWE superstar Nikki Bella and world champion motocross driver Travis Pastrana. Don’t worry, “AGT” fans. “Extreme” is merely a spin-off series and there has been no official word about the fates of Howie, Heidi and Sofia on the main show. More information on “America’s Got Talent” Season 17, including the premiere date and judges, will be announced by NBC at a later date.
So why aren’t Howie, Heidi and Sofia judging on “AGT: Extreme”? Simply put, Simon and his fellow producers wanted to shake things up and try out new personalities who themselves come from “extreme” backgrounds. As a professional wrestling superstar, Nikki is in the WWE Hall of Fame and served as a two-time WWE Divas Champion. And Travis is world-renowned for his motorsports skills and stunt performances, claiming multiple championships and medals along the way.
SEE Everything to know about ‘America’s Got Talent: Extreme’
The judging panel on the staple “America’s Got Talent” series has gone through many different iterations through the years. Season 1 started with just three judges — Piers Morgan, David Hasselhoff and Brandy Norwood — sitting at the desk. They were eventually all replaced at different times by different stars, including Howard Stern, Sharon Osbourne, Mel B, Gabrielle Union and Julianne Hough.
As for the most recent roster of judges, Howie joined the cast in Season 5, Heidi in Season 8 (sitting out Season 14), Simon in Season 11 and Sofia in Season 15. If they all return for the upcoming 17th season, it would be their third consecutive year as an intact foursome.
The position of “AGT” host has also gone through multiple hand-offs over the past 17 years. Regis Philbin hosted the first year, followed by Jerry Springer for two cycles, Nick Cannon for eight installments, Tyra Banks for two editions and Terry Crews, the current emcee, beginning with Season 14. Crews also hosts “AGT: Extreme.”
The format of “AGT: Extreme” is rather simple. There will be four episodes, with each running two hours. The judges get to press their Golden Buzzers during the audition phase, which allows their favorite acts to advance to the finals. The acts who don’t receive confetti showers have one more chance of advancing thanks to the show’s superfans. The ultimate winner will take home a $500,000 check during the Monday, March 14 finale.