Settle down, America.
Regardless of what you think of segments like "Hottest Chick with the Oldest Dude" or the "Tiger Woods Mistress Beauty Pageant," new "America's Got Talent" judge Howard Stern is not going to bring his X-rated antics to prime-time television.
Stern starts his run as a judge on the popular reality competition show on Monday (May 14) night and before viewing even one minute of his family-hour act some critics have already decided he's going to turn the 8 p.m. hour into a non-stop cavalcade of strippers, four-letter words and bathroom humor.
If you've listened at all to Stern's SiriusXM radio show over the past six months, the original radio rebel has made it clear that he has only one intention: to be the best, most honest judge on TV.
Stern is an obsessive about many things: his career-long nemesis Don Imus, his quirky bathroom habits, babysitter porn, the weight gains and losses and internecine feuds among his staff members and, yes, judges on reality series. As much as he'd love to find better uses for his time, Howard is drawn like a magnet to "American Idol," "Dancing With the Stars" and various other shows where, frankly, he thinks the judges are lousy, lazy, dishonest and just kind of lame.
"AGT" is Stern's chance to prove that he is willing to put up or shut up. This is the man, you may recall, who has spent decades trying to convince America that he is a poorly endowed, paunchy lover who has never satisfied a woman. How much more honest can you be?
He knows better not just as a father of three seemingly well-adjusted adult daughters, but as a professional broadcaster and 30-plus year veteran in the game. There's a time and a place for everything and "AGT" is not the forum for the Wack Pack and the adult word of Stern. This is a guy, after all, whose first movie was a hit, but who has spent the ensuing 20-plus years reading scripts and discarding them because they didn't ring true or feel right for him. Every move he makes is meticulously dissected, over-thought and ruminated over both on and off the air. The neurotic, locker room Howard Stern character of the radio is not the same Howard you are going to see on TV.
Because who in their right mind would humiliate a child on TV as some have suggested Stern might do? If anything, given his moral compass, Howard is more likely to go after the greedy, self-involved "Toddlers and Tiaras"-style parents that put their children up to audition for transparently selfish reasons. And who could argue with that? That's not even mentioning the fact that "AGT" picked up the entire production and moved it to New York to accommodate Stern's radio show. Combine that with a reported $20 million payday, and, let's assume, an iron-clad morals clause, and there's virtually no incentive for Stern to go off-script and try to tank the show by crossing streams with his more sordid radio world.
Why would Stern spend his life building a brand, only to go on TV and pull some kind of Andy Kaufman stunt and blow it apart just to be shocking? That's not shocking. That's self-destructive, bad business and frankly, just stupid.
If there's anything I've learned after listening to Stern for the past two decades it's that he will pick fights with management and complain and lash out, he will stomp his feet, vent his spleen and complain ad nauseum about being treated poorly, but he will not embarrass himself or do anything that could tarnish the legacy of what he's so painstakingly built for himself and his audience. (Okay, Fartman was not his best moment, but still, c'mon, it was still pretty hilarious.)
He wants you to love him, needs you to love him and after hit radio shows, movies, books and television production credits, what better way to do that than to once again prove his detractors wrong and conquer the one medium he's got left on his bucket list: star of prime time TV?
Plus, he loves to win, lives to win, and he knows that with this move he can't lose. There's little or no competition from other big-name shows in the summer months, the program already has a huge ratings base and any drop-off from the Stern Effect will easily be made up by his millions of fans. The curiosity factor alone (not to mention a huge, full-court ad campaign that had the normally press-averse Stern doing talk shows and New York Times interviews) will surely give the first few weeks a major ratings boost.
After years of experiments, plugging a celebrity judge into a panel is a mixed blessing at this point. Steven Tyler was kind of fun and quirky on last year's "American Idol," but by this season he was merely irritating and mostly just a peacocking place-filler who offered little or nothing of substance to the contestants.
Howard's watched this, studied it and has promised that he will be a different kind of judge. "All these articles talk about how I've changed and I'm like, 'Good, I hope I've changed,'" Stern said on his satellite radio show on Monday (May 14) about his bad-boy reputation. He's less angry, jealous and resentful these days, but he's also more keenly aware of what it takes to entertain and I have a feeling that, love him or hate him, if you tune in tonight you're going to be surprised.
And I guarantee you will be entertained.
Do you think Howard Stern will be a good judge on "America's Got Talent" Let us know in comments below.