Have The America's Got Talent Judges Gotten 'More Harsh' Over Time? Here's What Howie Mandel Says

 howie mandel america's got talent season 16 nbc
howie mandel america's got talent season 16 nbc
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Season 18 of America’s Got Talent is in full swing, with those who made it past the auditions taking the stage for a second time in the qualifiers round in hopes of making it to the final for a chance at the $1 million prize and a Las Vegas stage show. Nobody said the journey was going to be easy, though, and after the shocking elimination of a Golden Buzzer winner on top of what some AGT fans feel is an uptick in red X appearances, Howie Mandel has addressed accusations that he and the other judges — Simon Cowell, in particular — have gotten “more harsh.”

Howie Mandel shared his thoughts on why he, Simon Cowell, Heidi Klum and Sofia Vergara have been hitting their buzzers so often during the live qualifier shows, after social media users pointed out that these were performers they’d already seen and advanced in the competition. The comedian told Parade:

I don’t know if we’re being more harsh, as much as we’re just being in the moment and real and authentic. If you think in the moment that ‘Oh, my God, a lot of people sitting at home are turning the channel, or if they’re watching it on YouTube, they’ll click onto something else,’ the buzzer is our remote control —and then I feel bad. I don’t want to make anybody feel bad, but I think that we are getting paid to at least share what we think.

His explanation makes sense, and there are a number of reasons a contestant might fall out of favor between the auditions and the qualifiers — including if they’re not able to up the ante from what the judges and audience have already seen. It’s also fair for Howie Mandel to point out that if they start to lose interest in an act, others watching at home or online might feel the same way.

It certainly hasn’t been easy for the Season 18 performers. Of the first 22 acts to take the stage in the qualifiers round, only four were sent through to the final. While Simon Cowell is accustomed to getting booed by the audience for his sometimes-blunt assessments, fellow judge Sofia Vergara accused him of being “the Grinch” during a recent episode when he offered harsher criticism than his cohorts on singer Summer Rios.

Whether Howie Mandel and the rest have been a little buzzer-happy recently (consciously or otherwise), there’s still been plenty of praise to go around when it comes to the often-emotional performances, and particularly for Season 18’s Golden Buzzer winners.

Simon Cowell had only the highest of compliments for 17-year-old singer Putri Ariani, after he requested a second song during her audition, and his kind words continued in the qualifiers round, when he said contestants like her were the reason he kept coming back to the show. (No matter how blunt he gets, I doubt anything Cowell does on AGT will be as bad as the allegedly fake rudeness of American Idol’s early seasons).

We’ll have to tune in to see if Howie Mandel and Simon Cowell continue to hit their red buzzers an unusual amount for the remainder of the live qualifiers. America’s Got Talent continues at 8 p.m. ET Tuesday and Wednesday on Fox and can be streamed with a Peacock Premium subscription.