Who will win 'America's Got Talent' and why do viewers like this format?

'Talent' airs the finale of its eleventh season on Sept. 14. The show is one of several long-running American programs that are based on everyday people demonstrating skills on national television.

NBC
'America's Got Talent' host Nick Cannon (l.) appears with contestant Grace VanderWaal (r.).

“America’s Got Talent,” one of a few reality competitions that has aired for many seasons and is based on people displaying their skills for a national audience, is set to air its eleventh season finale on Sept. 14.

The final episode will find competitors including singer Grace VanderWaal and Jon Dorenbos, who performs magic tricks, facing off to win this season. 

“Talent” airs on NBC and has judges including “American Idol” personality Simon Cowell and singer Mel B of the Spice Girls. 

“Talent” is one of a few reality franchises that are currently on broadcast television and have been airing for double-digit seasons now. Its brethren include ABC’s “The Bachelor” and CBS’s “Big Brother” and “Survivor.”

And it’s also one of several reality shows that have been popular over the past several years that are focused on everyday Americans going on national television to show off their talent. Competitions such as the recently departed Fox show “American Idol,” Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance,” and NBC’s hit “The Voice” are also based on this. 

These shows are part of a long TV tradition, with the tradition going all the way back to programs such as the 1940s TV show “The Original Amateur Hour.” Later programs based on this premise also included the 1970s TV program “The Gong Show.”

Many of these shows debuted in the early 2000s, particularly in the wake of the success of “Idol,” which was a smash hit. Several of these shows endured, with “Idol” airing for 15 seasons and “Dance” recently airing its 13th. Because “The Voice” usually airs fall and spring seasons, it’s already set to debut its 11th season later this month. 

Why do these programs appeal to viewers? The format of “America’s Got Talent” is one that’s succeeded in Britain as well and Telegraph writer Michael Hogan writes that he thinks viewers are attracted to that particular shows because with “Britain’s Got Talent,” “it’s a throwback to the days of music hall and the have-a-go spirit that has made variety shows so timelessly appealing.” 

And NPR writer Ann Powers writes that TV fans view the contestants on these various shows as people like them. “A nation of screen-obsessed, text-voting fans see themselves in the strivers on these programs, and change their ways of making dinner or crooning on karaoke night because of it,” Ms. Powers writes. “When you look in your fridge on a given weekday night, for example, has ‘Chopped’ caused you to consider combining that packet of smoked salmon with the peaches in the crisper and some Ritz crackers? I've been there.”

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