Due to the coronavirus pandemic, America’s Got Talent production had to shut down in the middle of filming auditions. To keep the momentum going, AGT transitioned to a virtual open call to give those who weren’t able to audition in-person a chance to advance in the competition. Once production found a way to safely continue filming, socially distant measures were put in place to make the Judge Cuts possible.
There Is Only 1 Judges’ Cut Episode This Season, Filmed in a Social Distant Setting
According to USA Today, America’s Got Talent production packed the Judge Cuts into one episode this season. After shutting down production during auditions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, AGT resumed filming with strict safety guidelines so that the “show could go on” as closely to schedule as possible.
The Judge Cuts are styled to resemble a drive-in movie theater. Promotional materials show the judges arriving in vintage cars before taking their seats in well-space out directors chairs. The acts were able to perform outside and from a distance in front of a movie theater-like screen backdrop.
Gold Derby quotes Simon Cowell’s comments on the new Judge Cuts format. Suggesting that the change, while necessary to maintain social distance, will improve the show as a whole, Cowell said, “I always felt [like we] dropped in energy on the middle rounds, so I was always keen to change those middle shows. They never quite felt right to me. I personally now would stick to this new way we’ve done it not just for the present but for the future. I think it is a better show this year than it has been on previous years.”
With the Coronavirus Pandemic Ongoing, the Live Shows Begin August 11
When AGT picks up with its live shows on August 11 (a “15th-anniversary special” episode will air on August 4 in place of a new season 15 episode), it is unclear what the format will look like, but fans should not expect “virtual” acts to be a part of the equation. Executive Producer Jason Raff told People that while he believed other reality talent competitions like American Idol and The Voice “did amazing things with what they could at the time,” they had time with AGT to make the next round of competition that was not filmed pre-COVID “more than just another Zoom show, which is what people in the industry were calling them. All these shows trying to survive on Zoom interviews.”
Simon Cowell told USA Today, “As bad as it is, you always have to find a solution to get back to work. I have sympathy for so many people in this situation, but if our show is an example, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s different, but hopefully it will still be as popular.”
New episodes of America’s Got Talent season 15 air on Tuesday nights at 8/7c on NBC.