Buzz started late this week that Howard Stern was in negotiations to take over Piers Morgan's seat on 'America's Got Talent.' And this appears to be moving full steam ahead. The Wall Street Journal reports that a deal is being discussed where Mr. Stern would earn about $15 million a year to join Howie Mandel and Sharon Osbourne at the judges' table. There is even talk that NBC would move production of the show to New York to accommodate the self-proclaimed King of All Media.
'America's Got Talent' often brings in 14 million viewers a week, and I can assume that many of these devotees don't land in the standard Stern demographic. When they hear Stern may be coming to the show, they might recoil in horror with visions of a sex-crazed shock jock soiling their family-friendly show.
But as a devoted listener of Stern's for over 18 years, it's time to speak up. The hiring of Stern to replace Morgan could be a game-changing move. There is no one on the planet more qualified to join -- and stand out from -- the endless bench of talent TV judges and his hire would make a smash show even bigger.
Howard Stern = Music: Many Stern detractors claim he has no place on a talent show because he has no connection to music. They ask why anyone would listen to a shock jock's opinion on matters he knows nothing about. What they forget is that Howard Stern and music are synonymous.
Remember that before Stern ever appeared as Fartman on our own VMA Awards, he spent years forging a career through the back channels of rock and roll radio when radio actually meant something. Howard was a true tastemaker, slaving away on rock stations such as WRNW in New York, WCCC in Connecticut and WWWW in Detroit in the days when DJs were true influencers, making artists surge on the charts before there was any such thing as iTunes or YouTube.
Stern created his own style, breaking away from the strict formats of radio that demanded traffic and weather and news had to be delivered at certain moments. And while his searing social commentary and his chatter with guests and his own staff became the backbone of his show in the '80s through today, Stern never lost that intimate connection with music.
It still fuels the Stern show. Anyone listening daily knows that the show kicks off with replays of musical performances or that everything from current rock to recent pop tunes are played as bumpers going in and out of commercials. A sizable chunk of Stern's best guests over the years have included musical artists from every genre, from Paul McCartney to Stevie Wonder to Katy Perry to Jay-Z to Coldplay's Chris Martin just this week.
Stern has even played music, from psychedelic experiments in his bedroom at an early age to his collaboration with close friend Rob Zombie for his 'Private Parts' soundtrack.
Stern Knows Reality TV: The hiring of Howard Stern wouldn't be some random stunt. Stern could walk into an 'AGT' job interview cold and be able to ace a trivia quiz.
Stern has been devout fan of reality TV talent shows for years. He has encyclopedic knowledge of 'American Idol,' 'Talent' and 'Dancing With the Stars.' He spends hours each week -- probably more than many loyal listeners would like -- during their seasons analyzing auditions, the live performances and the judges' critiques.
Stern Could Actually Invigorate the Franchise: Stern joked in 2010 that he'd happily take $100 million from 'Idol' producers to judge a karaoke contest, but any fan knew that he would never be interested in just sitting back on autopilot.
Stern is an innovator. People (including myself) didn't realize that Howard Stern conceived of 'American Idol' before 'American Idol' when he hosted talent contests for unknown singers on the radio on the early '80s.
Stern was the one who told Ozzy Osbourne that cameras should follow him and Sharon around to look at their life years before MTV realized it was a brilliant idea.
Stern was the one who invented the man-on-the-street interviews that Jay Leno stole and then built his "Jaywalking" franchise on.
Stern was the one who brought on grade-school students for trivia contests long before 'Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?' decided to take the idea to prime time.
You don't know what exactly Stern would bring to 'AGT' but you know that he would give it a shot in the arm because he's never one to mail it in. Stern's not given proper credit for leaving terrestrial radio in ruins with his move to satellite radio in 2006. That industry is still trying to recover. He then gave Sirius enough of a subscriber boost to allow the company to merge with XM. Those are entire industries that Howard changed. So one can only imagine what he could do with one simple show.
Stern Can Actually Bring More Family Values To 'Talent': You didn't read that wrong. It's absolutely true. It's very hard to convince someone who doesn't listen to Stern every day that he is a loyal, loving family man and boss.
Stern gives many of his employees grief, but he always does it in a way that makes them elevate their game. He's always looking to motivate and one can envision back and forths between contestant and judge on live TV that could impact future performances.
And anyone who thinks that Stern's judging would be a parade of F-bombs forgets the decades he spent on terrestrial radio watching his own words or his classic David Letterman appearances where he's clean. No one in show business knows how to change his verbiage for specific audiences while maintaining his edge like Howard does.
Stern loves to be the topic of conversation and next week will no doubt fuel the rumors of this potential new gig. Stern fans like me would love to see him get exposure to a whole new audience, as we are tired of constantly telling doubters that he's better than he's ever on satellite and that any snippets of controversy you hear about him in the news cycle are taken out of context from the universe of his show, where all the rules that make sense. And with Stern in the first year of a new 5-year contract, there's no fear he would leave the radio behind even with the new TV gig, especially if they are moving to Manhattan just for him.
We know 'America's Got Talent' is ready for Howard. More of America is ready for him too. They just don't know it yet.