Howie on Howard

Howard Stern has always been a polarizing figure, but love him or hate him, he’ll soon have a larger media platform than ever before with his new gig on the upcoming season of NBC’s “America’s Got Talent.”

Following the departure of Piers Morgan, the last-standing original judge, Stern will join fellow “AGT” judges Howie Mandel and Sharon Osbourne behind the big red X’s when the show returns for its seventh season.

During a recent chat with The Huffington Post, Mandel had high hopes for the new judge. “I am very excited — couldn’t be more excited,” he said. “There’s nobody more honest, more edgy, more fun … having Howard Stern join the show, I think, is going to take ‘America’s Got Talent’ to another level.”

Stern’s presence is not the only change for Season 7: Since the radio personality hosts his SiriusXM show in New York, “AGT” will be relocating to the East Coast, and executive producer Simon Cowell told the New York Post that the show would be getting a “top-to-bottom makeover” in the process, including the addition of an as-yet-unnamed new fourth judge. Cowell said he expects Mandel and Osbourne to return, as well as host Nick Cannon. There hasn’t been an official announcement about any other cast changes from NBC, but there are a few factors to consider.

With “AGT” moving, the other castmembers’ current gigs could be compromised:

  • Nick Cannon, who joined as host in 2009, is a regular on NBC’s freshman sitcom “Up All Night.” He hasn’t appeared on the show very much, and it would actually be a welcome change to lessen the sitcom’s at-work angle if he left. But NBC might be out the money on the remainder of his contract, if the series gets renewed.
  • Sharon Osbourne, an “AGT” judge since 2007, is still technically a host on CBS’ much-in-flux daytime show, “The Talk,” which shoots in L.A.
  • Howie Mandel has been on “AGT” for a shorter time than anyone else (he joined in January 2010), and he does have another show on Fox called “Mobbed,” but it doesn’t have a regular timeslot and flash mobs can really be staged anywhere.

No premiere date has been set for Season 7, but auditions begin Feb. 3 in Charlotte, N.C.

Howie Mandel excited about Howard Stern on AGT

Video: Howie Mandel on Craig Ferguson

“First of all, he’s American, which is great, because he’s the first American judge on ‘America’s Got Talent,’ and I think that’s important,” Ferguson said. He furthermore said he was excited to see Stern be ruthless, but also excited about the acts he genuinely likes.

“And enthusiastic if he sees something he doesn’t like,” Mandel added. “I love honesty on that show. You know what I love about it even more? I love the controversy.”

Certainly Stern’s hiring has people talking about “AGT” more enthusiastically, either positively or negatively, than they have in several years. Time will tell if that translates to improved ratings.

“America’s Got Talent” returns this summer to NBC with Howie Mandel, Sharon Osbourne and Howard Stern replacing outgoing judge Piers Morgan