By John Hanlon
There are a lot of talent competitions on the air today. From America’s Got Talent: Champions — which celebrates many of the great acts from the long-running America’s Got Talent franchise —to The Masked Singer.
The World’s Best is the latest talent competition featuring celebrity judges, a familiar template and uniquely talented individuals.
Hosted by comedian James Corden (The Late Late Show with James Corden), the show strives to be unique and original but struggles to truly stand out. The judging panel consists of Faith Hill, RuPaul and Drew Barrymore. Each of these entertainers has the ability to entertain and engage an audience with the right material but that doesn’t translate to their limited roles as judges here.
The performers are an eclectic mix of international performers. The first episode — which premiered right after the Super Bowl — featured a unique variety of acts. There was a Mongolian singer, who doesn’t understand English but who could croon out a great country song. There were martial arts acrobats. There was a trio of young singers. There was also a sword swallower and an escape artist.
Many of these performers are successful and well-known in their fields so the judges spend most of the time praising the performances. In fact, only one contestant — a sword-swallower whose commitment to the craft is overwhelming — is rejected in the premiere.
The acclaim that the standout performers receive though can feel a little bit cheesy and overzealous. After the first performance in the pilot episode, Faith Hill declares that she has just witnessed “one of the greatest things I have ever seen in my life.”
If that’s how the show starts, where can it go from there?
The three primary judges aren’t the only ones judging the contestants though. The competition also has a “Wall of the World” behind the three primary judges. That wall features 50 international performers and artists who also weigh in on the performances. The three main judges provide a numeric score for each performance (from 1-50) and then their average score is calculated. That number is added to the number of international judges who vote yes on the performance.
If that combined score is above 75, the performer moves forward.
The inclusion of so many judges — and a few select international judges weigh in after most performances (usually judges from the same area as the performers) — detracts from the performances onstage though. It doesn’t help that when a few international judges dissent from the overwhelming support for a performance, they are often singled out. Corden calls these dissenting voices out, sometimes even shaming these judges.
As with many competition shows, the performances here are the segments that truly stand out. Because the talent pool is international, there are a lot of unique talents featured here who might not otherwise be recognized on other shows. But that being said, the show has a lot of gimmicks that seemingly detract from those performances.
From the over-the-top praise that the judges oftentimes dish out to the criticism of international judges who disagree with the overwhelming consensus, this show loses its focus on the competitors vying to be “the world’s best.” The concept of the show feels familiar but the elements that make this show unique are the ones that undermine the focus on the performances.
The World’s Best airs Wednesdays on CBS.