‘America’s Got Talent’ Boss Talks Season 12 Standouts, Stellar Ratings

“The show feels like it’s happening in a time when people want something really uplifting,” Sam Donnelly tells TheWrap

Last Updated: September 5, 2017 @ 11:29 PM

“America’s Got Talent” is having a special year in its twelfth season, even as it continues to evolve and face new competition.

Sam Donnelly, co-showrunner for the NBC variety show, told TheWrap that a number of factors have contributed to Season 12’s strong ratings — including a 13 percent increase in viewership for last week’s episode over the previous year — along with a series high for online video views.

“The show feels like it’s happening in a time when people want something really uplifting and really heartwarming, like our show,” she said. “No matter what’s happening around the world or what’s happening in your own life, there’s a really safe, lovely place to be for a couple of hours where you can really enjoy yourself, and I think that’s what our show is.”

Donnelly credited a boost in chemistry for the judge panel of Simon Cowell, Mel B, Heidi Klum and Howie Mandel thanks to a second season together, along with contestants who “seem to be connecting with the audience — they have stories with talent.”

“I do think we had a great year the previous year. You tend to build on it,” Donnelly said. “Grace VanderWaal was a really wonderful winner for us — she was fresh and original, and you don’t see her on any other show. I think people watched that, and they’re encouraged to audition themselves.”

Donnelly cites singing ventriloquist Darci Lynne Farmer and deaf singer Mandy Harvey as two performers whose performances have gone viral this summer.

“She’s got this most incredible talent, and it’s a wonderful story and personality — I think she just touches people,” she said of Harvey.

Although the judges remain intact from last season, host Tyra Banks is new to the show, stepping in after Nick Cannon exited earlier this year following a flap over his stand-up comedy special.

“When you lose somebody like Nick, who we all loved, it is really sad, and you just don’t know how the next person is going to fit in,” Donnelly said. “But I think Tyra has fit it great — I really do.”

The showrunner acknowledged that the competition genre continues to get more crowded, particularly with “American Idol” returning, and she said that the start of each season is “exciting but slightly terrifying” amid the uncertainty regarding what kind of talent they’ll find. But she remains confident that “AGT” will continue to stand out.

“It hasn’t affected our show at all. We’re still doing great numbers and getting great competitors,” she said.

“America’s Got Talent” airs on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 8/7c on NBC.