LOS ANGELES Howard Stern brought his Mr Nice Guy act to "America's Got Talent" on Monday, but the show failed to deliver the bumper ratings expected given the publicity over his arrival.
Stern, 58, one of America's best-known "shock jocks", left bad language and sexually explicit banter at home in his first stint as a new judge on the NBC show, leading critics to dub him "a sweet old man" and a judge with "a lot of heart."
But many TV viewers didn't bother to watch. "America's Got Talent" was 16 percent down from last year's season debut among the 18-49 age group prized by advertisers, ratings data showed on Tuesday.
And although 10.3 million people watched Monday's two-hour season debut, millions more watched "Dancing with the Stars" (15.6 million) on ABC, while CBS comedies "Two and A Half Men" and "Mike & Molly" attracted more than 11 million viewers each.
Stern made a name for himself by pushing sexual boundaries and making provocative comments on race and religion on his daily SiriusXM satellite radio show.
His reputation led the Parent Television Council to urge advertisers to boycott the family-friendly "America's Got Talent" before it even aired, claiming that Stern's presence would cause a sharp increase in explicit content.
Judging by Monday's show, they needn't have worried. Stern was friendly, and even kind, to contestants parading skills ranging from eating locusts to break dancing.
The Washington Post said Stern had become "a beloved uncle", while People magazine said Stern showed "a lot of heart and proved he's got talent - for judging."
The New York Daily News said Stern appeared comfortable on the show and got caught up with the "figurative group hugs and four-handerkerchief moments".
Entertainment Weekly's Ken Tucker said Stern was "perfectly fine" but took him to task for some of his gushing comments, and added "I'd forgotten what a tiresome talent show 'AGT' is."
(Reporting By Jill Serjeant; editing by Patricia Reaney)