Despite all of the amazing acts that appeared on the season 16 premiere of America's Got Talent last night, a handful of folks seemed much more fixated on another aspect of the NBC series — the audience.
Just as host Terry Crews and judges Simon Cowell, Sofía Vergara, Heidi Klum and Howie Mandel took the stage in the first few moments of Tuesday night's audition episode, the show's cameras panned to what appeared to be a mask-less packed house at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium in Los Angeles.
Given that mask mandates in California for the coronavirus pandemic are still in effect until June 15, and that the audition rounds of AGT were filmed in March and April of 2021, the audience footage immediately confused, concerned and angered a lot of folks watching at home.
"Why is the audience not wearing masks!!! What happened to Covid! Irresponsible AGT," one fan tweeted. "How is #AGT allowed to have live audience but other places/ events can't?" another wondered. "I happened to catch the last few minutes of #AGT while waiting for New Amsterdam to start. What the hell is happening? And why are so many people in the audience without masks? There’s no way all of those folks have been vaccinated," someone else noted.
So, what is the deal with the AGT audience in season 16?
Viewers concerned that AGT wasn't taking COVID protocols seriously should note the ending credits during last night's episode explaining why there appeared to be so many mask-less fans in the auditorium:
Due to COVID health restrictions, visuals of audience featured in this episode included real and virtual shots, as well as shots from past seasons. The use of these visuals was for creative purposes only and did not impact the outcome of the judging.
In other words, it's likely that the show had some audience members watching the auditions from their seats, but the rest of the cheering fans were likely superimposed using visual technology. People basically confirmed this to be the case when it reported the cast and crew of AGT filmed the audition round in front of a "limited audience" this past spring.
"It was wonderful — it's like you've been lost forever, and now you feel like, 'I'm home,'" Howie told the outlet about judging in front of people again. "Just to hear a reaction behind you, just to hear anybody be behind you and, kind of, affirm that what you just heard or what you just saw or how you just judged — they're either in agreement with [you], or they're totally opposed to what you just said."
Good Housekeeping has reached out to confirm whether vaccination status was considered when inviting audience members to watch the audition round (we will update this post when we hear a response). As you can see in the behind-the-scenes video above though, many of the cast and crew members appear to be social distancing and wearing masks.
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