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America's Got Talent Season Finale Watch: A Winner Is Crowned

What a great season it’s been. The talent show that fields more varied and disparate forms of talent than any other – yet has still managed to crown a singer champion in each of its first six seasons – has succeeded in its summer-long mission to give $1 million and a headline show in Vegas to an act that does not simply consist of a guy, a guitar, and a microphone. The season that saw the arrival of Howard Stern at the judges’ table, and will also see the end of Sharon Osbourne at same, has reached its conclusion.

Plenty of non-singing acts from AGT have gone on to success despite not winning the show, but it is gratifying to finally have one WIN. Were the singers just that much worse this year? Yeah, probably, but given the way the vocalists were nitpicked to death by the judges, who simultaneously glossed over obvious flaws by the non-singing acts, they never stood much of a chance anyway. But the end result is: America’s Got Talent is no longer American Idol's little summertime brother.

Performance Episode

Even though all six acts that made the Finals were deserving, realistically, I had to figure that there were only three acts that had a reasonable chance to win: Tom Cotter, William Close and Olate Dogs. Here is how it went down on Tuesday night:

#1. David Garibaldi and his CMYK’s - Howard dinged them last week for their somewhat abstract recreation of the Statue of Liberty last week, but they brought their A-game back this week. To the strains of The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, David hastily fashioned a very cool picture of Albert Einstein, while his four buddies each painted the letter of the color that they represent (cyan, magenta, yellow and key black). I may not know much about art, but I know what I like, and trust me, this is about as cool and slick as an act that paints pictures is ever going to get. They deserve some kind of forum as a reward for their creativity and ingenuity, and I hope that they get it, even if it isn’t in Vegas.

#2. Tom Cotter - Last time out, Tom gave Howie the power to choose the subject matter of his set, and it was brilliant. He basically did the same thing this time, leaving it up to the roll of a huge die rolled by Nick. The subject that came up was “Poor Examples”, and he proceeded to roll out a bevy of jokes about how classic nursery rhymes and fairy tales can be easily misconstrued. It was funny, but not as uproariously funny as his previous set. I had doubts that a comedian could actually win AGT, but Tom made it at least a possibility. I hope that, at minimum, he gets an hour-long Comedy Central special out of this, because after eking out a meager funnyman’s living for over twenty years, he’s certainly earned it.

#3. The Untouchables - The precious and precocious troupe of preteen and barely-teen Latin dancers decided to go with a jive routine for the finale, to the high-energy strains of Ike and Tina’s “Proud Mary”. Led by Ruby, the youngest and most outspoken member of the group (and the daughter of the choreographers, who were the leaders of the Miami All Stars last season), they proved once and for all that an act like this basically markets itself. I must admit, though, that I can’t imagine something with the level of energy that The Untouchables displays could be drawn out into an hour-long Vegas show. I know they’re kids, but they’d drop dead of exhaustion! Anyway, kudos to them for being the first-ever traditional-dance crew to make it all the way to the end.

#4. Joe Castillo - What I’ve loved about Joe every single time he’s performed was his ability to render stirring, moving images simply by shifting sand around on a screen-projector. He tackled poignant subjects like endangered wildlife, peace and unity and the perils of smoking. This time, however, he chose to honor the people who made his journey possible: Howie, Sharon and Howard (with Nick thrown in for good measure). Which is nice and all, but hardly what I’d call moving. I would definitely pay money to watch him sculpt, as long as he keeps to subjects that tug at the heartstrings. The aging hippie that he is, that shouldn’t be too hard.

#5. William Close - If memory serves, William was the very first act we saw this season, on the first night of televised auditions. His grandiose earth-harp, which started as a novel idea with lots of potential, blossomed into a full-fledged spectacle over the last few months. William added a bevy of new instruments, as well as vocalists, to help hammer that spectacle home. Though I’m sure it’s ten times more impressive live, even I can tell from watching it on TV that this is the kind of act that is the lifeblood of Las Vegas, the kind that sells out shows months in advance. William and his earth-harp are the centerpiece of the show. He’s a musician, a showman and an engineer. Yes, his act does involve singers, but the show isn’t going to split that particular hair, and neither will I. He’s simply brilliant, and his rousing rendition of “America the Beautiful” was tremendous. As I mentioned, William was the very first act we saw this season, how ironic it would be if he was the last one standing at the end.

#6. Olate Dogs - A few weeks ago, the act that won Britain’s Got Talent, a dog act dubbed Ashleigh and Pudsey, performed on an AGT results show… and I wasn’t the least bit impressed. Now, I’m sure they were a lot more impressive on the actual show, but regardless, I would rather pay to see Olate Dogs ten times out of ten. Even though they did many of the same tricks they did before, they added another dog (clad in an adorable doggie tux) and added some new ones as well. Trust me when I say, there will never be a better animal act on this show than this one, EVER. Like The Untouchables, I wonder how they could get their rapid-fire dog-tricks to span sixty minutes, but I would love to see them try.

What a phenomenal night. Only thing left is to see who takes the crown.

Results Episode

As is usually the case, the season finale was a jam-packed, star-studded affair, in addition to the myriad of retrospectives of what has been a very interesting season. We got a load of the best, the worst and the truly bizarre. I will fondly remember the outstanding auditions of dancer Turf and singer Andrew De Leon, and will less fondly remember the tug-of-war between Howie and Howard that took the miniscule form of Big Barry. From the truly amazing mind-reader Dittelman to the incomprehensible “nut-shot” artist Horse, this has been a season for the books.

One of the cool things about the finale is that each of the finalists gets to pair up, in some way, with a famous celebrity. David Garibaldi did his thing while Flo Rida warmed up the crowd. By the end of the song, David had produced a very cool likeness of Flo (sorry, I can’t type his name without thinking of the Progressive girl). A good way to start the show.

After a rousing vocal performance by Ne-Yo, William Close got to share the stage with One Republic, a band of which I am only passingly familiar. I worry about how the contestants’ talents will mix with tried and true artists, but the sound of Williams’ instruments blended well with the sound of the band. Really cool.

A less coherent blend of talent combined singer Frankie J. with Olate Dogs and The Untouchables. I suppose that being that they are all of Hispanic origin, it was the smartest thing to do, because come on, who else are you going to put performing dogs with? Really, the dogs only got the first fifteen seconds on stage and then they disappeared. Oh well.

After some innocuous filler involving aging rapper Burton Crane and hopefully the last thirty seconds of film involving Big Barry EVER, there was an awesome performance by perennial Las Vegas staples the Blue Man Group. THAT is how you put on a show, people. It’s still the coolect show to catch live until Fighting Gravity get their own gig!

Let me just say now, Howard Stern has been a terrific judge this year. Taking over for the stern but stuffy professionalism of Piers Morgan, he took his duties very seriously, and he brought with him a fan base that numbers in the millions. The back-and-forth between him and Howie never got out of hand, and despite Sharon leaving I have a feeling that Howard will be around for a long time, unlike at Idol, where the show seems to get a makeover every damn season.

Without a doubt the funniest part of the program came when they allowed Tom Cotter to turn the judges’ criticism back on them, as he proceeded to mercilessly roast all of them. Even Nick didn’t escape the ribbing. And then we went totally OTT when Joan Rivers joined the party and really let them have it. God, I love me some Tom Cotter.

Before we got the first of the night’s results, Joe Castillo went back to his wheelhouse, drawing a plethora of symbols of unity while a children’s choir warbled “Edge of Glory” around him. It was sweet, but very underwhelming.

Then we got our first cuts. Sixth place ended up going to The Untouchables, which I expected. They were sad, but every one of them has a big future in dance. Fifth place went to Joe Castillo which, again, was not a big surprise. He is a true artist, and he opened up our minds. I’m not worried about his future. Fourth place was then awarded to David Garibaldi and his CMYK’s, who elevated art to a level no one thought possible. That just left Tom Cotter, William Close and Olate Dogs, which means that America got it right, whoever wins. These three acts have undoubtedly been the pinnacle of the season.

I know Justin Bieber has millions of fans, but I’m not one of them, so I skipped right the hell over his song, so I could enjoy the tribute to Nick Cannon, quite simply the best host on television, and some of the crazier moments of the season involving him doing what he does best, using comedy to lighten the boom laid down on some of the lamer contestants. He is absolutely the perfect fit for this show.

It was actually really cool to see Green Day perform. I kind of stopped following their careers after American Idiot, but it’s good to see them still kicking ass. I remember thinking in the early 90’s that they would peter out early, seeing as how most of their songs were all about drug use. Glad to see I was wrong about that. They are apparently releasing THREE albums in the next four months, and I am making a point to check them out.

I am on a roll, and not the kind I want to be on: for the third straight year, the act that I pegged to win it all ended up coming in third place. William Close, who based on all the hype, I was really hoping would win, but it wasn’t to be. I guess the spectacle didn’t translate to television audiences after all. Now we’ll find out if Howard makes good on his promise from earlier in the season, which was to use his own money to sponsor a show for William. He deserves it.

And then, finally, we came to the end. The announcement that has been the culmination of the entire season. And the $1 million prize, and the headline show in Las Vegas hereby goes to…. Olate Dogs!

How about that! The best animal act in the show’s history just beats out the best comedian in the show’s history. If any of you out there have a chance to ever see them

So that’s it. Another season come and gone. Thanks to all of you for reading my recaps, it’s been a blast as usual. I will be back for AGT’s eighth season next year, but until then, you can find me recapping the latest season of The Amazing race. Take care, all, and have a good fall!