"America's Got Talent" has got a problem: Susan Boyle.
Will the NBC talent show, which begins its fourth season Tuesday, be able to find its own version of the 48-year-old Scottish singing sensation? Boyle's first appearance on the British production earlier this year generated millions of YouTube hits and sparked an unmeasurable amount of attention. The show's judges are putting the onus on the auditioning public.
"I think the Susan Boyle effect has had a huge effect on the show," Piers Morgan, the British judge who serves as arbiter on both editions of the competition, said during a break from a recent Los Angeles audition.
"What she has done is laid the gauntlet down to America. Beat that. She's the biggest star from any talent show ever. See what you can do, America."
Among the acts the judges have seen so far this season that may reach Susan Boyle status stateside: a trio of siblings called Voices of Glory who serenaded their comatose mother; an impressive singer who said she was turned away from auditioning for a cruise line because of her appearance; and a chicken farmer who clucked one mean Garth Brooks tune.
"It would be great to have a Susan Boyle," said judge David Hasselhoff. "I think it's a wonderful story. I think it's great story because that story brings us together. It shows us we're stuck up, judgmental and sometimes full of ourselves. She comes out there, appreciative to be there, and sings just about better than anyone on Earth."
This season, the show has scoured for Boyles of all kinds — comedians, contortionists, jugglers, magicians, dancers and singers — in nine cities: Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Washington, Atlanta, Miami, Seattle, Boston and Houston. Former host Jerry Springer was replaced by actor-rapper Nick Cannon, who is happy he doesn't have to dismiss any of the wannabes.
"I don't have to judge," he beamed. "All I have to do is stand on the side of the stage and root for the team."
The show's previous winners — tween crooner Bianca Ryan, ventriloquist Terry Fator and operatic insurance salesman Neal E. Boyd — haven't become household names in the vein of Boyle after winning the $1 million prize. It's usually the odd acts that have viewers talking each season. Sharon Osbourne said the wackiest she's seen so far is a man with a dancing toe.
"He made this little theater to put his toe in," said Osbourne. "He put a little wig on his toe, but the wig fell off, and then you couldn't see his toe in his little theater. It was just insane. Why would you think to build a theater around your toe? What's so great about your toe moving to the music? It can only go from side to side and back and forth."
Even if the show doesn't find an American who follows in the footsteps of Boyle, it may have the next best thing: Boyle herself. She's been asked to appear on the American show sometime during the fourth season. Morgan thinks it may be Boyle, who ultimately lost "Britain's Got Talent" to the dance group Diversity, who leaves the lasting impression.
"When I die," Morgan envisioned, "the headline will be: Man Who Was In Susan Boyle's YouTube Clip Dies at Age 97."
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