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Reality Check: 'America's Got Talent' a Poor 'Idol' Imitation

Mercifully, "America's Got Talent" ended its season this week, with ventriloquist Terry Fator nabbing the million-dollar prize as well as the title of the Best New Act in America.

While there's absolutely nothing wrong with Fator — his act was, indeed, worthy of accolades — I can't say the same about the show. It's just so extremely ordinary — a hodgepodge of acts, judge types and formulas that have worked well before mixed together and Jerry Springer stirring the pot.

The judges have so little chemistry that they quite honestly make the energy between Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson seem electric. Sharon Osbourne has been pushing horrific acts all season long (Boy Shakira, anyone?) seemingly just to enrage the other two judges. Piers Morgan is a poor man's Nigel Lithgow, who's a poor man's Simon Cowell. And what can be said about the Hoff?

Well, his performance of "This Is The Moment" (from "Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical") on the finale wouldn't make anyone think that the Germans really are right about him. It wasn't that it was bad. It's just that, like so much of the show, it just seemed slightly creepy.

Obviously, I'm missing something that a lot of America is not. The show has had huge ratings and they were able to score finale performances out of Sean Kingston, Taylor Swift and UB40 and taped messages from Lionel Richie and Martina McBride.

But since the main thing that differentiated this show from its "Idol" is that it featured a variety of talents, isn't the fact that the final four were all essentially singers a bit of a cop-out?

While they all seemed sweet — especially Cas Hailey, who always cried, smiled and kissed his baby at exactly the right time — the contestants who fought it out on the finale basically all seemed to be people who simply weren't right for "American Idol."

Shows that are ripped from the same mold as other ones aren't always destined to stay in the original predecessor's shadow. Take, for example, "The Hills" — the "Laguna Beach" spin-off that recently launched its third season.

Sure, the girls on it are almost as ridiculous as the guys they chase, the conversations they partake in would make a drop of water seem deep and all they ever seem to do at their glamorous jobs is talk about each other behind their backs — but so what? The producers have somehow managed to set up perfect co-villains in the clearly-meant-for-each-other couple of Heidi and Spencer and an ideal perma-victim in "Laguna" graduate Lauren.

Spencer's so singularly awful, Heidi's so blind to it and Lauren is so unaware of her inappropriate possessiveness of whoever happens to be living in her apartment that it's nearly impossible to decide who's right, if anyone.

Are the scenes staged? Probably. Do the girls actually even work at any of these places? Doubtful. Does everyone appear to be thoroughly lacking in self-awareness? Without a doubt. But I still say that taking all of that ridiculousness and somehow making it compelling takes talent. Perhaps even more than making a puppet speak and sing for you.

Anna David is a freelance writer. Her novel, "Party Girl," is in stores now.