Why did America's Got Talent episode filmed locally avoid mentioning St. Petersburg?
Fun as it was to glimpse shots of the Mahaffey Theater and the area around the Dali museum on NBC's broadcast of America's Got Talent Monday, there was one problem for many local fans tuning in to see auditions held in the Sunshine State.
Where was St. Petersburg?
Stars on the show kept referring to the "Tampa Bay area," even though the onstage auditions for the show were held at the Mahaffey in St. Petersburg. Indeed, at times it felt like the show worked overtime to avoid mentioning the city where much of the episode was filmed.
Shots of the area's skyline were filmed in Tampa; the headlines on video clips and photos also say Tampa. Even when host Nick Cannon rallied a crowd of flag-waving fans, a Tampa fire rescue truck sat parked in the background.
Times reporter Michael Van Sickler discovered that the city-owned Mahaffey negotiated an agreement with producers to mention St. Peterburg in the show. But that agreement was only operative if they mentioned where they were during auditions; instead, the host and judges gave shout outs to the Tampa Bay area without getting specific about where they were standing.
"I was disappointed," said St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster, who took a photo with the show's star judges during the first evening of tryouts at the Mahaffey in April. "St. Petersburg wasn't mentioned once. But for the fact that I recognized the (Mahaffey), I would have thought that it took place in Tampa."
In truth, the show held two sets of auditions to make Monday's episode. Producers held a cattle call group audition at the Tampa Convention Center in November, where hopefuls came in off the streets to audition for producers.
Then, the show held auditions in April at the Mahaffey, bringing a select number of acts before crowds of about 2,000 people on a tricked-out stage where the celebrity judges could evaluate them.
Like Fox's American Idol, NBC's show edits together footage from the cattle call auditions and the onstage auditions to make it seem as if everything happens at the same time.
Besides the fact that people outside Florida are probably more familiar with Tampa than St. Petersburg, I suspect the show kept referencing "Tampa Bay" to gloss over the fact that they were showing two parts of an audition process which took place in two different cities.
Putting aside the weird avoidance of the town where the glitzy onstage auditions were happening, Monday's episode felt curiously devoid of actual, um, talent.
As I noticed during the auditions I watched April 3, many of the auditioners were from outside the area and most seemed seriously lacking in distinctive skills. I saw the bikini dancers and escape artist featured in Monday's show; the acts put forward to the semi-finals in Las Vegas that I saw, didn't seem to be depicted in the episode.
One standout, however, was The Distinguished Men of Brass from Tampa (a.k.a. d'Mo Brass), a brass band filled with smoking local players who said they were downsized out of gigs locally at theme parks -- basically, Busch Gardens' funky band, which walked around the park grooving -- and got together to make something new.
Check the episode below to see how they turned the judges' heads.