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America's Got Talent Watch - Semifinal #2

Last week, the show’s producers’ dogged attempt to crown a non-singer champion for the first time ever got a shot in the arm, on what was quite possibly the best semifinal in the show’s history. At least half of the twelve acts were deserving of a spot in the finals – including mind-reading phenom Dittelman and operatic whizkid Andrew De Leon – but in the end it was musician William Close, comedian Tom Cotter and sand artist Joe Castillo that moved on. I am more than satisfied with that result.

I haven’t mentioned this yet, but if you haven’t heard, the finals are next week, and not only will they crown a champion, but it will also mean the end of Sharon Osbourne’s tenure as judge on this show. Taking over for Brandy Norwood after Season One, Sharon has been a terrific judge, bringing her trademark British charm (and a sense of humor that can only come from being married to Ozzy) and maternal warmth to the judges’ table. I can’t believe it’s been six years. I’ll miss her.

After last week’s spectacular show, I didn’t think this week would even come close. And while Tuesday’s semifinals were not as jam-packed with quality, there were some amazing performances. One can pretty much guess the intentions of the show by the order in which the acts were placed. The five best acts were reserved for the second half of the show, and the three acts with the most hype got the last three spots. And they did not disappoint at all.

Here are the twelve acts that performed on Tuesday night, in the order that they performed in:

#1. All That - To be honest, they guys have taken clog dancing a lot further than I thought it could go. They took the judges advice’ and added solos (Howard), leather outfits (Sharon) and something new (Howard again), by lighting their shoes on fire. It is a great act, to be sure, but it’s not worth $1 million. They got saved twice by Sharon, and it was their time to go. (Result: eliminated)

#2. Sebastien “El Charro de Oro” - I am not a fan of mariachi music, but I love that this ten-year-old kid at least made me LIKE it. He’s got charisma to boot, and though his voice still needs work in his lower register, he’s got star potential. I like that after last time, he went back to a Spanish song, but there’s just not enough universal appeal to make this a winner. (Result: eliminated)

#3. The Magic of Puck - I have to give this guy credit. A lot of magicians specialize in the “small” tricks, and simply don’t have the chops to elevate their act to a bigger stage. I didn’t think Puck had it in him, but he pulled off an impressive levitiation/disappear-reappear trick with no flaws at all. It’s not an illusion that breaks new ground, but kudos to him for pulling it off. But if Dittelman couldn’t crack the Top Four vote-getters, Puck didn’t have much chance anyway. (Result: eliminated)

#4. Clint Carvalho and His Extreme Parrots - The parrot in question, Kitty, is one talented bird. He dropped a letter into a mailbox, flew through some hoops held by audience members, and retrieved a soda can from Sharon’s hands. Any other season, they would be the best animal act of the year, but on the same night as Olate Dogs, they had no hope of getting votes. (Result: eliminated)

#5. Jacob Williams - Jacob’s whole shtick is that he’s awkward, and his comedy is all about him getting into awkward situations. Sometimes it works, but tonight it just didn’t. I think he’s got a future in comedy (or, as Howard alluded, a possible sitcom), but there’s already a comedian in the finals, and we don’t need two. (Result: eliminated)

#6. Shanice and Maurice Hayes - It’s not hard to get misty-eyed at this act, a teenage girl singing with her dad. They did a good job with a good song (Mariah’s “Anytime You Need a Friend”), with a full choir complement, but the knock on this act is that Shanice needs the stage to herself to really shine. She’s gorgeous, she’s got a fantastic voice, and she has got star potential. This isn’t the season for singers, though. (Result: eliminated)

#7. All Wheel Sports - Props to the AGT set-builders for cramming trampolines, a climbing wall and two bike ramps onto the teeny AGT stage. With more room to maneuver, this could be a great stage act. One of the bikers took a tumble, and while the judges’ didn’t knock them for it, it’s just not the kind of act that wins this show. (Result: eliminated)

#8. Tim Hockenberry - The last hope for the singing genre the season, Tim did himself proud by singing a toned-down version of John Lennon’s “Imagine” featuring only himself, his piano, and an accompanying cellist. I personally love his voice, and the judges do too, but the weeks of stacking the deck against the singers proved too much to overcome. (Result: eliminated)

#9. The Untouchables - Thanks to DWTS and SYTYCD, I have become a fan of ballroom dancing. Watching these kids – aged 8-13 – dance a tango with the precision of a group of seasoned professionals is simply breathtaking. Their choreography was amazing, the lifts were terrific, and there was even a “quick-change” moment in the middle that added to the spectacle. They are magnificent, and deserving of a spot in the finals. The thunderous ovation they got was one of the longest and loudest I’ve ever heard on this show.(Result: through on viewer votes)

#10. Olate Dogs - This is probably the one act that can get away with doing a lot of the same tricks they’ve done before. Their dogs did the jump-roping and the conga-line, but they added a new dog named Bella that did jumps and somersaults with the two trainers, which was terrific. They are simply the best animal act I’ve ever seen, and to not have them in the Finals would have been a true crime. (Result: through on viewer votes)

#11. Lightwire Theater - Though I am impressed with the technology involved with this act, I still have a little gnawing in my gut about them. They are basically the same kind of act as Team iLuminate from last season, but with more theatrics and less dancing. Team iLuminate deserved to win last year, and if Lightwire Theater ended up taking the crown, I think I would have been disappointed. Thankfully, it won’t happen (Result: eliminated on judges’ decision)

#12. David Garibaldi and his CMYKs - And last but not least, a rollicking art show complete with gymnastics, theatrics, and rock and roll music. David and his minions created a terrific six-piece picture of the Statue of Liberty, and I marvel that they can do that in less than two minutes. What a season it’s been for artistic acts, hasn’t it? (Result: through on judges’ decision)

So here we go. One more show to determine a winner, and six acts giving their all one final time to make sure the $1 million prize and the headline show in Vegas belongs to them. It’s going to be awesome. See you next week.