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America's Got Talent's wrong turn

America’s Got Talent has always been touted as a platform to highlight the amazing amateur talent of individuals in America.  For years, viewers’ hearts have been stolen by kids, seniors, singers, dancers, comedians, magicians, and performance artists of all kinds.  Tears have fallen and standing ovations received.  But the staging of the show has somehow limited some performers in their quest to shock audiences.

Although we didn’t know it, viewers were missing out on something.  So producer Simon Cowell and NBC decided to up the ante with “the most outrageous, unique and jaw-dropping acts of enormous scale and magnitude that simply cannot be confined to a theatre state.”  Hence, America’s Got Talent: Extreme was born.

It did not go well.

After an initial social media campaign that blasted “Oh you thought #AGT was extreme enough already?” production has already been shut down.  On one of the show’s first shoots, escape artist Jonathan Goodwin was severely injured in a stunt gone-wrong.  In fact, some of the crew initially reported that Goodwin had died after being crushed between two flying cars that burst into flames and then falling 40 feet on his head.

While Goodwin is not dead, the show has been temporarily “paused” and according to an AGT spokesperson, “will resume the last few days of filming at a later date. The health and safety of our cast and crew continue to be our priority."

Really?  A man nearly died trying to compete on your show and you’re planning the resumption of production once everyone calms down?

Yes, I get that this is his job.  Goodwin is a professional escape artist.  It’s his job to push the envelope.

But isn’t this envelope also pushed by the viewers and the network?  Goodwin already competed successfully on AGT and Britain’s Got Talent without medical intervention.  Yet, in order to meet the requirements of this new Extreme version, the contestants must risk so much more.

It’s no longer about amazing talent that touches viewers’ hearts.  It’s about engineering, timing, luck, and shock.  And impressing the network with its production value.

Perhaps AGT Extreme could be like an extreme sports version of performance art with its adrenaline rush.  However, viewers would tune in with the knowledge that the act is pre-recorded and everything must have gone well if it made it to television.

Forget any nail-biting moments.  Viewers would just tune in with a blasé attitude hoping to be wowed with the set-up.  And the more dangerous, the better.  Because it is, after all, a competition.

So potentially life-threatening acts – like the one that nearly killed Goodwin – would be performed by each contestant every week.  Then viewers would decide which one was wilder, scarier, or more dangerous.  And if the contestants survived the act and the vote, they might win $500,000 – before taxes – in the end.

Does America really need this right now?  Somehow, AGT Extreme sounds more like a dystopian death game/survival movie without Schwarzenegger or Statham.  Or their hope for humanity.