Hey all! Hope everybody enjoyed the 2012 London Olympics, which pre-empted our favorite primetime talent show for the last two weeks. However, now that the Olympic torch has been snuffed, it’s time to get back to our weekly routine, which in my case includes recapping the seventh season of America’s Got Talent.
However, a brief synopsis of the season (in fact, all seasons) is probably due. When the series first debuted six years ago, the format was very different, and though there was a fair amount of talent, the show (which was hosted by Regis Philbin and judged by Piers Morgan, Brandy Norwood and David Hasselhoff) was little more than a slightly jumped-up version of The Gong Show. A very talented 11-year-old girl named Bianca Ryan won, and has had a small measure of success building a singing career since.
One year later, singer-ventriloquist-comedian Terry Fator won the show, and he has since gone on to incredible fame in Vegas, where he still performs to sold-out shows today. And in the four intervening years, it has been a male singer who has won. Very little has been heard from Season 3 champion Neal E. Boyd or Season 4 winner Kevin Skinner. I have yet to year about anything happening to last season’s champion, Landau Eugene Murphy Jr. Which leaves only Season 5 winner Michael Grimm, who I’m happy to say has done quite well for himself.
With Howard Stern taking Piers Morgan’s spot on the judging panel this season, there has been a very noticeable effort by the judges to hype to high heaven all the non-singing acts, and downplay all of the singers. I don’t know if this is fair, because there is at least one singer (Tim Hockenberry) who I think has the chops to win, but I think everyone involved with the series is doing this because if a show that prides itself on its variety ends up crowning a male singer champion AGAIN, it will lose credibility. Acts like Fighting Gravity and Team iLuminate certainly deserved to win, but they didn’t, and the reason is… America loves singers. And I am skeptical as to whether all of the show’s efforts to buck that trend will succeed or not.
Of course, I am guilty as well. I desperately want AGT to crown someone like David Garibaldi, William Close or Light Wire Theater champion. Hell, if Britain’s version of this show can crown a dog act the winner, why can’t Olate Dogs do the same thing here? Hasn’t America had enough of singers? Consider that male singers have not only won the last five season of AGT, but also the last five seasons of American Idol and both seasons of The Voice. It’s time for a change.
This week’s episode featured the top twelve vote-getting acts that auditioned on YouTube. Which is a nice idea, and the third time they’ve done it. But the purpose of the audition rounds, Vegas Week and so forth is so the audience can be exposed to the acts, learn their back-story and really get behind them if they are good. The YouTube acts were complete strangers to 99% of the viewing audience, which means unless they are phenomenal, they have no shot at the Finals. Case in point, not one of the four acts that were passed through on YouTube Week even made the Top 10.
I know, there is an exception to every rule, and perhaps no contestant in this show’s history has enjoyed more success than Jackie Evancho, the 10-year-old girl with the angelic voice who came out of the YouTube Special to finish an astonishing second to Michael Grimm. She has gone on to worldwide acclaim, compiled four albums and a DVD, and made countless appearances all over the world. But the odds of finding someone of Jackie’s caliber are infinitesimal, and while I tried to keep an open mind with this season’s crop of Internet auditioners, my hopes weren’t high.
Here are the twelve acts that performed on Monday night, in the order that they performed in.
#1. Clint Carvalho and his Extreme Parrots - I normally despite bird acts, but this was decent. Clint’s assistant released a parrot from the roof of a building across the street from the theater, and it flew down, through the front doors, across the lobby and all the way to the stage. Pretty cool. (Result: through on judges’ decision)
#2. Reverse Order - Howard has been jonesing for a great band on this show, but these guys are probably not it. They’re not horrible, but the lyrics to “I Kissed a Girl” just don’t sound the same coming out of a dude’s mouth. Howard nailed their biggest detriment, which is that they sound like they haven’t been together that long, which is true.(Result: eliminated)
#3. Rudy Coby - On paper, this was the must intriguing act… an illusionist was a macabre look that creates illusions out of spooky comic books. Which is cool, but what he did was so disappointing. He basically “animated” a little clown marionette, which then turned into a big version of itself. It wasn’t scary, the pacing sucked, and he got X’s from both Howard and Sharon.(Result: eliminated)
#4. 7 in Unison - I read that this group has won competitions on a national level, and they are talented, but their youth was showcased terribly with their song choice (“Fever”), the poor lighting and the boring choreography. They did nothing to stand out, which is a shame. Even the tolerant-of-anything Howie buzzed them.(Result: eliminated)
#5. Drew Irwin - Drew is a teenage singer/guitarist that actually got the most online votes of anyone, and he was completely unaware that his dad had submitted a video of him singing until he got the phone call from the judges. Surprisingly, the judges turned on him a little, especially Howard, who told him that his inexperience showed and that he’s not ready for this competition.(Result: eliminated on judges’ decision)
#6. Melinda Hill - It’s tough to really connect to a comedian in ninety seconds, and I really didn’t connect to Melinda. Neither did the audience. Her jokes didn’t pop, her delivery was too slow, and it was clear her nerves were in play. I’ll take Howie’s word for it that her YouTube set was much funnier, and it’s a shame she didn’t use that material instead of what she did here.(Result: eliminated)
#7. Eric Buss - Ye gods. How did THIS make it to live TV? A self-professed illusionist/comedian/prop artist, his act consisted of him opening cans and having snake-shaped objects fly out, all set to the music of the “Blue Danube”. The day this becomes a million dollar Vegas act is the day I emigrate to Antarctica. Or worse, France. Even the pizza-dough-spinning guy from two years ago was better than this.(Result: eliminated)
#8. Romeo Dance Cheetah - Who wakes up in the morning and decides they want to do air guitar as a claim to fame? Granted, a few seasons ago there was a trio that actually made it marginally cool, but let’s call this “art” what it is: it’s basically just mime, set to heavy metal music. It’s great for your living room, but a stage? No effing way. Sharon let him slide, but she was the only one. (Result: eliminated)
#9. The Magic of Puck - I generally like my magicians on this show to do grand spectacles. Puck decided to go small, spending his ninety seconds animating a knotty hanky. It was cute and fun and certainly better than most of tonight’s acts. He really needs to step it up for next time. (Result: through on viewer votes)
#10. Bria Kelly - Another teenage singer, but unlike Drew Irwin, her voice is a lot more powerful and she commands a stage much better. I read that she’s opened for several noteworthy country acts, and I can see why. It’s really gratifying to see another good female solo singer in this competition.(Result: through on viewer votes)
#11. Cast in Bronze - Know what a carillon is? Well, it’s a centuries-old instrument that’s basically a organ that makes sound exclusively by percussing dozens of large bronze bells. The music was fine, but the big turn-off was that the guy chose to cover himself from head to toe in black, and cover his face with a bronze mask. The judges all X’ed him, probably less for the music than for him being such a creepy weirdo.(Result: eliminated)
#12. Academy of Villains - The best, especially on this show, is often saved for last, and tonight was no exception. Not only was this group better than any other act tonight, they might just be the best dance act of the season, and the best hip-hop crew on this show EVER. Their makeup, costumes, song choices, and dance moves set them apart, and they just might be the act that can come from nowhere to crack the Top Ten.(Result: through on viewer votes)
I know AGT’s biggest appeal is that it reaches into every corner of the country to pull talented acts, but I think the show has progressed beyond the point where it needs a YouTube show. The acts are act a disadvantage going in due to their green-ness, their unfamiliarity and, let’s fact it, their outright stupidity, and unless you’re Jackie Evancho, you have no hope of making the Finals. These were the twelve acts that got the most online votes, which means that I can’t comprehend the level of suckitude of the acts that DIDN’T make it. Half of tonight’s acts would not have even been sent to Vegas, and I think only two or three at most would have made it past that point. Just my two cents.
Next week: the Wild Card episode, where acts eliminated in the quarterfinals and in Vegas get a final chance to impress. There was one act that I wanted back more than anyone else, and I’m happy to say, he will be. See you in seven.