What's good for Heidi may not be good for America's Got Talent, says PEOPLE's TV critic

By Tom Gliatto and PEOPLE TV Critic
Updated June 05, 2013 09:55 AM
Credit: Andrew Eccles/NBC

Heidi Klum has taken the first significant step in her TV career since Project Runway, the show that established her as a reality star: Tuesday night, she joined a revamped and expanded judges’ panel on season 8 of NBC’s America’s Got Talent.

It was a sensible and safe step for her. Simply by being gorgeous and charming and not Piers Morgan, she proved herself ready for a bigger, busier network platform.

But I think now she should move on to something else. What is good for Heidi may not be good for America’s Got Talent.

True, true, true, the talent is really all that matters – this season’s American Idol, despite a lineup of judges that produced less harmony than wooden bowls in a dishwashing machine, resulted in one of the best singers in the show’s history, Candice Glover.

But judges are still part of the fun – much more so on the looser, sillier, much less august Talent – and in season 7, the show had achieved an entertaining balance (and clash) of personalities with Howard Stern, Sharon Osbourne and Howie Mandel.

Then the highly voluble Osbourne, who’d been with the show since its second season, left the show after a dispute with NBC. Now the panel has been expanded from three to four celebrities: Not only Klum but former Spice Girl Mel B were hired to join Stern and Mandel.

In Tuesday’s two-hour premiere, this new group seemed diluted – more like a conscientious committee. The circus craziness was diminished, despite acts that included a snake trainer who blew up a balloon and then goaded a rattlesnake into popping the balloon with its fangs.

A talent show ideally requires a show-bizzy, even cheesy energy and personality so vivid it doesn’t matter if it also happens to be vulgar – this goes for not just the contestants, but for the judges. Klum does not bring that to the table.

In her many seasons on Project Runway, she perfected an apprising but unreadable stare as she endured an endless parade of rapidly constructed couture outfits. Then she would deliver a critical dismissal that was crisply polite and flinty in its finality.

She’s certainly much more casual here, playing along Stern and Mandel, showing some dance moves, dressed for fun and for dazzle – I mean, this was not Anna Wintour at Ringling Bros. – but she’s never show-bizzy and certainly not cheesy.

When in the premiere Mel B would say, “That was ridiculously sexy!” – Mel B is a natural – Klum would say, “That was a lot of fun to watch.”

Which is why I found myself missing Osbourne. She could be obnoxious and loud as a drill sergeant, but she was also extravagantly passionate about the performers.

Still, this was just the premiere. Maybe Klum will become as giddily enthusiastic as Mandel. Or maybe Stern will style his hair to match hers. Things evolve. We’ll see.