Saturday, July 12, 2014

Simon Cowell still has a talent for relevance

June 07. 2013 4:20PM
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NEW YORK — So what’s new on TV?

The new season of “America’s Got Talent” began at 9 p.m. Tuesday EDT. New judges include former Spice Girl Mel B. and supermodel/ personality Heidi Klum, who are joining forces with Howie Mandel and Howard Stern.

New York’s Radio City Music Hall is the spectacular new venue.

Even so, the roots of this NBC variety competition are steeped in TV antiquity, reaching back to the medium’s infancy.

It was on June 20, 1948, that “The Ed Sullivan Show” (then known as “The Toast of the Town”) began its 24 seasons of jugglers, opera singers, comedians, animal acts and (of course) Elvis Presley and the Beatles.

It was also 65 years ago that “The Original Amateur Hour” moved to television after a successful run on radio (its final CBS telecast was in 1970).

The variety show was pronounced dead decades ago.

And after “The Gong Show” in the 1970s and ’80s, and “Star Search,” which folded in 1995, talent competitions also seemed kaput.

But Simon Cowell has done his part to resurrect both genres.

He was, of course, the tart-tongued judge when “American Idol” began its epoch-changing run on Fox in 2002.

With his Syco Entertainment, he now serves as a creator, producer and judge on Fox’s “The X Factor,” which come fall starts its third season.

And off-camera, he is the driving force of “America’s Got Talent,” now starting its eighth season.

In a recent phone interview from his native London, the 53-year-old mega-impresario recalled enjoying talent shows like “Opportunity Knocks” and “New Faces” as a child.

And he described how a few years

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