America’s Got Talent” (or “AGT”) is a popular show that continues to attract a large audience and talented contestants. Its success led to the introduction of several related programs, such as “America’s Got Talent: The Champions,” “America’s Got Talent Live,” “America’s Got Talent: Holiday Spectacular,” and “AGT: Extreme.”

A Guide to “America’s Got Talent” in 2021

In this guide, you’ll learn more about the show’s format, judges (past and present), season highlights, and where to watch “AGT” episodes. This guide also covers frequently asked questions about the show.

“America’s Got Talent”: The Basics

“AGT” premiered on the NBC television network on June 21, 2006. The competition series forms part of the “Got Talent” franchise conceived by global entertainment icon Simon Cowell. 

It attracts contestants of varying ages from across the United States and abroad. The popularity of “America’s Got Talent” has turned it into a rating success for the NBC network.

In the following three sections, you’ll find more information about the “AGT” format, its streaming platforms, and its key personalities.

Format

Participants showcase wide-ranging talents, including stand-up comedy, acrobatics, dancing, singing, and other acts. They perform in the auditions before the judges decide whether to advance them to the second round and the live shows. 

Although “AGT” has changed its format somewhat throughout its running, you can expect these various stages of the competition:

  • “AGT” auditions: Usually aired during the season premiere, this stage consists of two sets of auditions: producers’ auditions and judges’ auditions. The producers’ auditions are open to individuals and groups looking to showcase their talents to an independent group of judges. Successful participants take part in the judges’ auditions held in various cities throughout the United States. Judges’ votes determine the contestants who proceed to the next round. However, producers may trim some acts, even if the judges vote them through. 
  • The second round: Contestants who make it to the second round join one of four groups, which face the main judging panel and a guest judge. Depending on the quality of an act, judges may press a red buzzer to express their dissatisfaction. If all judges buzz an act, participants must stop their performance immediately. On the other hand, a golden buzzer signals automatic qualification to the next stage.
  • Live rounds: After passing the auditions and the second round, the participants compete to secure a place in several live rounds, including quarterfinals, semi-finals, and the “AGT” season finale. NBC tweaks the arrangement of these rounds with some editions splitting the finals into separate rounds. The live rounds take place in one venue, although the location may vary from one season to another. Viewers influence the results of various live rounds by voting for their favorite acts. In each episode, two contestants with mid-range votes appear before the judges who vote to determine the act advancing to the next stage.

Host, Judges, and Other Show Personalities

A wide selection of judges, hosts, and other prominent personalities have participated in “America’s Got Talent” seasons. Howie Mandel (judge) and Nick Cannon (host) are the longest-serving cast members. Mandel joined the judging panel in the fifth season when David Hasselhoff left the show. Meanwhile, Cannon hosted “AGT” for seasons four through 11. Tyra Banks replaced him before NBC introduced host Terry Crews.

Other judges and hosts include (in no particular order):

  • Heidi Klum (judge)
  • Brandy Norwood (judge)
  • Piers Morgan (judge) 
  • Regis Philbin (host)
  • Jerry Springer (host)
  • Howard Stern (judge)
  • Sharon Osbourne (judge)
  • Eric Stonestreet (judge) 
  • Julianne Hough (judge)
  • Mel B (judge)
  • Gabrielle Union (judge)

Below you can find more about the current host and judges:

  • Terry Crews: Born in 1968, Crews joined “AGT” in season 14 when Tyra Banks left the show. He appeared in several sitcoms, reality shows, and movies, including “White Chicks” (2004). Terry also hosted the game show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.”
  • Simon Cowell: Judge and creator of the “Got Talent” franchise, Cowell joined “AGT” in the eleventh season following the departure of Howard Stern. He previously served as a judge on “Britain’s Got Talent.” Simon is a prominent executive who focuses on television, record, and film production. He also serves as an executive producer for “America’s Got Talent.”
  • Howie Mandel: As the longest-serving judge, Howie has worked with a wide selection of personalities and contestants. The comedian has added a spark to the judging panel with his insightful, witty, and playful approach. He has hosted talk shows and produced CNBC’s “Deal or No Deal.”
  • Heidi Klum: Born in Germany, Heidi joined the show in the eighth season when Sharon Osbourne left. In the 13th “America’s Got Talent” season, the supermodel, actress, producer, and fashion designer left the show before making a comeback in the 15th season. Julianne Hough occupied Heidi’s position on a panel in the 14th season. 
  • Sofia Vergara: The actress joined the judging panel for the first time in season 15. She replaced Gabrielle Union, who served only one season following Mel B’s departure. Vergara has been featured in wide-ranging films and has received several awards, including an ALMA Award. In addition, her award nominations include Primetime Emmy Awards, Golden Globe Awards, and Screen Actors Guild Awards.
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Note that season 10 introduced guest judges as a way to mix up the format a bit. This shift welcomed a wide-ranging list of Hollywood celebrities and singers alike, including: 

  • Neil Patrick Harris
  • Michael Buble
  • Marlon Wayans
  • Martina McBride
  • Ne-Yo
  • Chris Hardwick 
  • Ken Jeong
  • Reba McEntire
  • DJ Khaled
  • Olivia Munn 
  • Dwyane Wade
  • Brad Paisley
  • George Lopez
  • Laverne Cox
  • Ellie Kemper
  • Louis Tomlison
  • Seal
  • Jay Leno

Where to Stream

You can view previous and upcoming “America’s Got Talent” seasons via NBC.com or the network’s app. Additional “AGT” streaming options include YouTube, Peacock, and Hulu.

“America’s Got Talent”: A Breakdown of Each Season

“AGT” seasons provide a glimpse of America’s varied talents. Over the years, young and old contestants captivated audiences with their amazing talent. Here are quick recaps of the first 16 seasons.

Season One

NBC announced “America’s Got Talent” season 1 in May 2006. In June, participants auditioned for live show slots in Los Angeles. Meanwhile, Chicago and New York later hosted the live round episodes. Regis Philbin served as the host while Piers Morgan, David Hasselhoff, and Brandy Norwood judged season one acts.

Singer Bianca Ryan was the season one winner. The finalists for that year include the clogging group All That, Celtic Spring (a dance group), Taylor Ware (singer), and the musical group, The Millers.

Season Two

Season two’s 12 episodes aired between June 5 and Aug. 21, 2007. Los Angeles hosted the auditions while New York, Dallas, and Chicago provided venues for the live shows.

Unlike other seasons, NBC suspended the judge’s votes for season two. This change in rules meant that participants progressed to the next rounds based on audience votes only. Additionally, contestants participated in the Bootcamp stage, involving several callback episodes.

This new stage provided a platform to trim the number of acts from the first round of auditions. “AGT” producers used the stage to achieve a rounded figure of the season’s semi-finalists.

When it comes to the judges and the host, Sharon Osbourne replaced Brandy Norwood, while Jerry Springer became the host following Regis Philbin’s departure. Singing impressionist and ventriloquist Terry Fator became season two’s champion. Cas Haley (a singer) had the second-highest votes, followed by Butterscotch (another singer), who came in third.

Season Three

The third season consisted of 20 episodes, which aired from June 17 to Oct. 1, 2008. Participants auditioned for slots in live rounds from January to April. In addition, semi-finalists increased from the usual 20 to 40 due to the Las Vegas callback episodes.

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At the same time, the judges’ votes, which returned after suspension in the previous season, concentrated on tie-breaking the fifth and sixth popular acts drawn from audience votes.

In the season finale, violinists Nuttin’ But Stringz came in third and pianist Eli Mattso received the second-highest votes, while opera singer Neal E. Boyd won the season.

Season Four

The fourth season’s 26 episodes aired between June 23 and Sept. 19, 2009. For the first time in the history of “AGT,” NBC broadcast the show in high definition (HD). Meanwhile, the participants auditioned between January and April in Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and other cities. Country music singer Kevin Skinner won the season, with other finalists including opera singer Bárbara Padilla and the group Recycled Percussion.

Season Five

This season premiered on June 1 and ended on Sept. 15, 2010. Auditions for the competition took place in various cities and online via YouTube. NBC aired auditions and live rounds in 32 episodes, culminating in a captivating finale that saw musician Michael Grimm winning the season. Other finalists included classical singer Jackie Evancho and the performance group Fighting Gravity.

Season Six

The 2011 edition of “America’s Got Talent” aired 32 episodes between May 31 and Sept. 14. Contestants performed in the auditions in the winter and early spring of 2011. “AGT” producers didn’t modify any format rules and the competition progressed smoothly. Dance group Team iLuminate finished third, Silhouettes (another dance group) came in second, and singer Landau Eugene Murphy, Jr. won the competition.

Season Seven

The seventh season broadcast 31 episodes from May 14 to Sept. 13, 2012. “AGT” underwent significant changes in the form of new graphics, theme music, lighting mechanics, judges’ desk design, title credits, and the logo. 

Producers also moved the filming location for live rounds to the Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark. The switch allowed a larger audience to attend the live shows. In the finale, the dog tricks act Olate Dogs won the season. Additional finalists included comedian Tom Cotter and musician William Close.

Season Eight

This edition premiered on June 4 and ended on Sept. 18, 2013. It consisted of 27 episodes filmed in New Orleans, Chicago, San Antonio, and New York. In addition, producers tweaked the audition format to match the rules used on “Britain’s Got Talent.” As a result, season eight episodes came in two and three parts. Radio City Music Hall in New York hosted live episodes, which saw Japanese dancer Kenichi Ebina become the first foreign contestant to win “AGT.”

Season Nine

The ninth “America’s Got Talent” season consisted of 24 episodes aired between May 27 and Sept. 17, 2014. Unlike previous seasons, the 2014 edition included a special audition conducted via “The Today Show” website. Participants submitted audition video clips via the website and top-ranked acts from the auditions performed in a live show to determine who advanced to the quarterfinal. In the end, magician Mat Franco became the season nine champion.

Season 10

In season 10, the production team changed the rules governing the golden buzzer. As a result, recipients automatically qualified for the live rounds. This edition consisted of 23 episodes broadcast from May 26 to Sept. 16, 2015. Ventriloquist Paul Zerdin won the season, followed by comedian Drew Lynch who received the second-highest votes. Mentalist Oz Pearlman finished the season as the third-place finalist.

Season 11

NBC aired 22 episodes starting May 31 through to Sept. 16, 2016. In the finale, musician Grace VanderWaal received the most votes to become the winner. Meanwhile, host Nick Cannon surprised everyone by breaking the rules and pressing the buzzer to grant 90-year-old Dorothy Williams another round of competition. Nick hit the buzzer after realizing that all the judges had already used their golden buzzer opportunities for the season.

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Season 12

This edition aired 22 episodes from May 30 to Sept. 20, 2017. Supermodel Tyra Banks replaced Nick Cannon as the “AGT” host. Season 12 guest judges included Laverne Cox, Chris Hardwick, Seal, and DJ Khaled. Singer ventriloquist Darci Lynne was the winning act, followed by Angelica Hales (another musician), who came in second, and the dance group Light Balance finished third.

Season 13

In 2018, NBC broadcast 22 episodes from May 29 to Sept. 19. Several cities, including Milwaukee, Cincinnati, Nashville, and Orlando, hosted the open call auditions. The production team announced changes to the judge cuts format, resulting in a reduction in acts. Magician Shin Lim was the season champion after securing the most votes.

Season 14

The fourteenth season had four guest judges, including Jay Leno, Brad Paisley, Ellie Kemper, and Dwayne Wade, who participated in the judge cuts. Other guest judges included Queen Latifah and Sean Hayes during the semi-finals. NBC aired the season’s 22 episodes from May 28 to Sept. 18, 2019. This season was won by singer and pianist Kodi Lee. Other finalists included the Detroit Youth Choir and comedian Ryan Niemiller.

Season 15

The 15th edition of “America’s Got Talent” saw the appointment of Sofia Vergara and the return of Heidi Klum as judges following the departure of Gabrielle Union and Julianne Hough. Twenty-two episodes aired between May 23 and Sept. 23, culminating in spoken word poet Brandon Leake winning the season.

Season 16

This season’s 21 episodes appeared on television starting June 1 through Sept. 15, 2021. The judging panel included Heidi Klum, Howie Mandel, Sofia Vergara, and Simon Cowell. In the finale, standup comedian Josh Blue finished third, while aerialist Aidan Bryant came second. Magician Dustin Tavella won the season.

“America’s Got Talent” FAQs

“AGT” boasts an impressive track record as one of the most popular and innovative talent competitions. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about “America’s Got Talent.”

Who are the most recent “America’s Got Talent” winners?

Magician Dustin Tavella is the winner of the most recent “AGT” season. Fellow finalists aerialist Aidan Bryant and comedian Josh Blue finished second and third, respectively.

What time is “America’s Got Talent” on?

“AGT” typically broadcasts episodes on Tuesday nights from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. EST on NBC.

What does the golden buzzer mean on “America’s Got Talent?”

The golden buzzer is a key feature on “America’s Got Talent” that allows judges to send impressive acts to the live rounds. Producers introduced the buzzer in season nine. 

How do you get on “America’s Got Talent?”

To perform on “AGT,” you must be a U.S. citizen or legal resident. The show also welcomes noncitizens who are legally in the country at the time of the audition. There’s no age limit; however, if you’re below 18, you need a parent or guardian to sign the competition forms. Registering before the auditions is optional, but it can save time and help keep you updated. 

Where is “America’s Got Talent” filmed?

Auditions and live shows take place in various cities around the country, including Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Chicago, Dallas, and New York.

When does the next season of “America’s Got Talent” start?

The most recent “AGT” season premiered on June 1, 2021.

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