Do America's Got Talent Voters Miss Out By Not Watching Live In Person? Howie Mandel And Heidi Klum Have Thoughts

America's Got Talent Season 17 judges and host Terry Crews
(Image credit: NBC)

America’s Got Talent is deep into the live shows of Season 17, although the qualifiers present a twist this year. Instead of slowing cutting the groups of semi-finalists down, each of the 55 acts who advanced from the auditions have just one shot to make it to the grand finale for the chance at $1 million and a Las Vegas stage show. The acts have to be bigger, bolder, and more dazzling for viewers, but do fans and voters miss out on the spectacle by not watching live in person? Judges Howie Mandel and Heidi Klum shared their thoughts with CinemaBlend, and they don’t 100% agree. 

The two judges spoke with CinemaBlend and other outlets following the second night of live qualifiers, with the eleven acts soon to be cut down to just two. When I asked if they thought that viewers were missing anything by watching on their TVs from home as opposed to live in person, Howie Mandel specifically mentioned acrobatic act Duo Rings, who closed out their latest performance with a drop right in front of the judges. He shared his thoughts, saying:: 

Yeah! I was saying to Simon [Cowell] right after we watched [Duo Rings]. We have a great production team. I think we have the best production team in television and our director Russell Norman is amazing. But I said to Simon that part of this is the act can win a million dollars and get a headlining spot in Vegas, and when you watch like Duo Rings, and they're three stories in the air, and they're right above you in the room, and they drop a foot from you, there is no way – no matter what kind of television set you have at home, no matter how big that screen is, no matter how good your speakers are – there's no way to get the feeling of what that is in the live room. So that's why some of these big spectacular huge daredevil acts kind of lose something being once removed and not live.

Duo Rings were pretty spectacular in their live performance, to the point that it would have been shocking that they were cut before the finale if the night hadn’t been stacked with fan-favorites and golden buzzer winners. Madison Taylor Baez (who I ranked in the middle of the pack of golden buzzer winners most likely to win) was cut and she was definitely a fan-favorite

The two moving on are country music group Chapel Hart after they went for a sassier original song and magician Yu Hojin. Music and magic acts are definitely easier to experience on the small screen than an acrobatic act, based on what Howie Mandel had to say! Singers and magicians tend to be popular with AGT voters, so Duo Rings’ fate may have been sealed by viewers not being able to fully experience the drops in person. 

That said, Heidi Klum has a different perspective on whether fans are missing anything by watching from home as opposed to right in front of the action. She said:

It is thrilling to be there for sure, but I always – not always, but a lot of the times when I make it home in time, I do watch it again on TV. And it is amazing, because you get so many different angles from home. It's almost like when you watch a football game or any kind of sports game, it is almost better at home in a way than it is in the room, because I don't know how many cameras they have in that room! You know, you get [the performers], you get the audience, you get close up, you get from so many different angles. So I think it's always cool to again see it from home, and I'm always like, 'How come I'm not on there that much, it felt like, or more?' [laughs] I'm kidding.

While the experience of watching AGT live in person is “thrilling,” according to Heidi Klum, it’s not possible to see every detail up close or the benefit of an instant replay like what viewers get from home. Even though voters can only use the reactions of the judges and audience to gauge what it was really like, they do have some advantages in their TV screens. Klum continued her comparisons:

There's definitely a different energy, yes, but it's the same when you go to a live concert. It's the same thing. You do feel everyone sweating and yelling in the room, which is fine, and especially because we haven't had that for so long. You know, it's fun to be in the room with so many people.

America’s Got Talent was one of the many shows that made changes in light of COVID protocols, which meant some virtual auditions and an absent audience in the previous season. Episodes did include a combination of real shots, virtual shots, and shots from past seasons to create the illusion that AGT was back to normal. Audiences are officially back for Season 17, which has evidently been “fun” for Heidi Klum.

But would acts like Duo Rings have been more fun in person, to the point that they would have gotten enough votes to advance if more people could get the full experience? Howie Mandel seems to think that they’re more of a thrill live, but you can judge for yourself with the video of their qualifiers performance:

The qualifiers are still going, and several of the golden buzzer winners still have yet to perform for their shot at making the finale. Madison Taylor Baez being cut is proof that the buzzer is no guarantee at advancement, and stand-up comic Jordan Conley is back in the mix after winning the wildcard vote. Be sure to keep tuning in to NBC on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET for new episodes of America’s Got Talent, and stop by NBC’s voting page by Wednesday mornings to help your favorites advance. 

If you’re still in the market for some viewing options as fall TV season approaches, be sure to check out our 2022 TV premiere schedule. You can also revisit earlier episodes of AGT Season 17 streaming with a Peacock subscription.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. CinemaBlend's resident expert and interviewer for One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and a variety of other primetime television. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).