Americas Got Talent Review: Top 48 and Vegas, Baby!
Well kids, it’s a loooong week in America’s Got Talent-land; where the show aired not one, not two, not three, but FOUR hours of television this week. Three hours of this marathon aired on the same night. I felt like I was watching Ben Hurr. I love the show, but this was a bit much even for me. There is only so many times one can listen to host Nick Cannon stand in the wings of the stage while someone performs and say enthusiastically: “Now THAT’S talent!” It’s a big commitment.
Hour one featured what seemed to be some “leftover” auditions, since it was rather vague as to what city they were actually in. Me thinks the show put together a hodge-podge of sorts from all the cities on the audition tour and created one last episode of potential contestants. The second, third, and fourth hours were the beginning of “Vegas Week.” This is where the show flies over 100 acts to Las Vegas, and by the end, we get our Top 48 who will begin performing live in Hollywood for a studio audience and America’s votes next week. But lots more on that later. First, let’s look at short run-down of some of the featured auditions this week:
Avery and the Calico Hearts: 3 little girls that are very cute, in a nauseating sort of way, sang a Justin Bieber song in three-part harmony. They were quite good, but because they are SO young, their voices sort of sounded like The Chipmunks. However, the girls made an impression on the judges and made it through to the next round. Lots of little girl giggling commenced.
Kevin Shelley: He broke about 20 or more large pieces of wood over his forehead, as Nick Cannon passed the wood to him one by one, ending with the top of his head bleeding. Sharon couldn’t stomach it and said no, but the other two judges liked the danger element and put him through to Vegas.
J. Chris Newberg: A very funny comedian who played some hilarious and “very short” original songs, along with delivering some great short jokes. I really liked this guy. He made me laugh a lot, and I thought his material was unique and clever. With his one-line song about working up the courage to kill his roommate, and his other great lyric about women being like the ocean, “Fast and deep and beautiful, and once a month, it’s Shark Week,” Sharon and Howie appreciated his humor. Guess who didn’t? Yup. Piers. What a shocker. After proclaiming Newberg as “not funny,” Howie stepped in and reassured the contestant to “never feel bad when Piers doesn’t recognize humor.” You got that right. I swear, that Brit needs a funny bone implanted into his body, because God must have left his out and given him extra “smarmy” instead. Luckily, the other two judges enjoy laughing, and sent him through to Vegas.
C.U.T. Chicago Ultimate Tumblers: This energetic group of about 11 guys and one 14 year old girl did everything from jumping to tumbling in the air higher and higher, using the girl as their prop to jump over. Extremely cool to watch, especially when one of their jumps resulted in smashing into the girl by mistake and their response was to go even higher. Piers loved the rawness of the act, while Howie felt it should be more polished. Yes to Vegas.
Meet Me at Fairfax and 3rd: Quite possibly THE most random thing I have ever seen in my entire life on this show, and very oddly entertaining. Two older men with some sort of unexplainable and unidentifiable accent who apparently came up with this “act” hanging out at their local Kareoke bar together. Basically, one guy plays the synthesizer and sings (rather badly and flat) while the other guy does random stuff on a chair. Stretches, headstands, upside down leg-movements, and other ludicrous things that make absolutely no sense and have no purpose. The judges couldn’t stop laughing at how completely random this all was (even Piers!!!), and strangely enough, put them through to Vegas. Weirdest. Thing. Ever.
LAS VEGAS WEEK:
100 contestants. Down to a Top 48. Here is how it went down: All 100 or so acts were called into the large theatre on Day One, and right away, 10 acts were pre-chosen by the judges to automatically go through to Hollywood without having to perform again. Those ten acts were: The Silhouettes, Squonk Opera, Lys Agnes, Professor Splash, The Rhinestone Ropers, The Fearless Flores Family, Melissa Villasenor, Captain and Maybelle, Team ILuminate, Miami All-Stars. This left another 38 spots still left in the Top 48. Judges then put the remaining acts into two groups: the “Judges Favorites” (acts they like the best and feel should most likely be in the Top 48), and “Stand-By” (acts they are still unsure about.) The judges favorites group would perform on Day One, and Stand-By would perform on Day Two, taking however many spots would be still remaining at that time. Judges did not comment after each performance; but in a few cases, sent the contestants home immediately if they felt the audition was not up to standards.
On Day One, the drama unfolded with the “Judges Favorites” breaking up into categories and performing for only the judges in an otherwise 7,000 seat empty theater. Some acts thrived, while others had issues in their second auditions. Frank Miles thought that perhaps his “guess which of these coolers has a giant sword inside that I am going to literally throw myself onto” act may have been TOO intense and gone over the line, while juggler Charles Peachock juggled fire with his legs ON fire. The vocal group 4Play was sent home immediately after their off-key, not good performance; as was aspring singer Cindy Chang, who, after coming out strong in her first audition, came across more wobbly in her second. Pole-dancer and aerealist Steven Retchless gave a beautiful and strong performance, as did standards singer Landau Eugene Murphy Jr. In the bands category, the youngest band to audition Poplife showed off their electric guitars and unique blend of music, while the 5-piece acoustic band Fiddleheads gave a raw and gritty performance on their mandolins and fiddles. (Love them!) The show spent quite a lot of time airing the drama of young singer Dani Shay, whose look resembles Justin Bieber. She took a huge risk by performing an originally written song, and then stopped mid-performance and forgot her own song. Claiming that her nerves got the best of her, she stood there not knowing what to do. The judges asked her to take some time away, and come back to perform a well-known cover song, something that everyone would know, so they could properly judge her again. She chose the song “Trouble”, and sang it pretty well. She has a really lovely, pure voice and although I do like her, I am a bit confused as to why they are spending SO much time on showing us her every move. I think they want us to really, really like her. Okay. We get it. If I tell you I like her, will you stop spending half the show on her? Thanks. On the comedy front, both J. Chris Newberg and Geechy Guy did an outstanding job, considering they had to perform stand-up comedy to a completely empty theater. Variety act Those Funny Little People managed to dance, lipsync, and annoy the hell out of Piers with the help of Howie Mandel, who made the strangely costumed hilarious creatures come down off the stage to surround and take a picture with a pouting Piers Morgan. Watching Howie Mandel continue to find 1,000 different ways to annoy Piers in every episode is becoming my favorite part of this show.
On Day Two, the Stand-By acts got their chance to perform, and to land one of the still remaining 17 spots that were unfilled at the completion of Day One. In the kids category, singer and piano player Anna Graceman gave another above average performance, while cute little boy dancer Lil T / Tanner Edwards shook and moved his body all about the stage in the most adorable manner. In more of a “WTF?” performance, adult SamB. danced and jumped around, with his plumber butt hanging out of his too big pair of pants. Talented male singer Daniel Baker showed us why he is a huge competitor in this competition with his powerful and emotional vocals, combined with piano.
In the end, the judges had to decide who stayed and who went home, forming their Quarterfinal Top 48. And, in alphabetical order, here they are:
TOP 48 QUARTERFINALISTS:
- Anna Graceman, a singer and pianist from Juneau, AK
- Attack Dance Crew, a drilling dance crew from Tallahassee, FL
- Avery and the Calico Hearts, a singing trio from Lubbock, TX
- Captain and Maybelle, a variety act from Atlanta, GA
- Charles Peachock, a juggler from Kent, OH
- Dani Shay, a singer and guitarist from Orlando, FL
- Daniel Joseph Baker, a singer and pianist from Katy, TX
- Dezmond Meeks, a singer and pianist from Pineville, LA
- Duo Aero, a trapeze duo from Saint Paul, MN
- Dylan Andre, a singer and guitarist from Zieglerville, PA
- Echo of Animal Gardens, an animal act from Lake Geneva, WI
- Fatally Unique, a hip-hop dance team from Rockford, IL
- Fearless Flores Family, a family daredevil act from Myakka City, FL
- Frank Miles, a variety act from Los Angeles, CA
- Geechy Guy, a comedian from Las Vegas, NV
- Ian Johnson, a yo-yo trick act from Hebron, IL
- J. Chris Newberg, a comic and musician from Los Angeles, CA
- Landau Eugene Murphy Jr., a singer from Logan, WV
- Landon Swank, a magician from Wasilla, AK
- Lys Agnes, a singer from Denver, CO
- Mauricio Herrera, a singer and dancer from Pomona, CA
- Melissa Villasenor, an impressionist from Los Angeles, CA
- Miami All Stars, a dance group from Miami, FL
- Mona Lisa, twin singers and guitarist duo from Houston, TX
- Monet, a singer from Charlotte, NC
- Poplyfe, a teen band from Oakland, CA
- Professor Splash, a shallow water diver from Lakewood, CO
- Purrfect Angelz, a dance troupe from Los Angeles, CA
- Sam B., a dancer from Falls Church, VA
- Sandou Trio Russian Bar, a Russian bar trio from San Antonio, TX
- Scott Alexander, a magician from Lancaster, PA
- Seth Grabel, a magician from Los Angeles, CA
- SH’Boss Boys, a young rap trio from Atlanta, GA
- Silhouettes, an interpretive dance act from Arvada, CO
- Smage Bros. Riding Shows, a motorcycle stunt show act from Elkhorn, WI
- Snap Boogie, a dancer from Boston, MA
- Squonk Opera, a band from Pittsburgh, PA
- Steven Retchless, a pole dancer and aerialist from New York, NY
- Summerwind Skippers, a jump rope team from Boise, ID
- Taylor Davis, a singer and guitarist from Leesburg, GA
- Team iLuminate, glow suit dancers from New York, NY
- The Fiddleheads, a bluegrass band from Dahlonega, GA
- The Kinetic King, a variety act from St. Paul, MN
- The Rhinestone Ropers, a variety act from Jerome, ID
- Thomas John, a variety act from Woodland Park, CO
- Those Funny Little People, a variety act from Chicago, IL
- Yellow Designs Stunt Team, a BMX bike tricks act from Monument, CO
- Zuma Zuma, a tumblers act from Las Vegas, NV
One more thing of importance to note, the show Whitney! will air Thursdays, this fall, on NBC! How do I know this? Because I was told by NBC over and over and over again, during AGT, every 10 minutes, with that annoying and obnoxious little animated person that appears in the bottom left corner of my TV. You know, the one where Whitney! (comedian Whitney Cummings) is making some silly face while she puts her hands on her hips or playfully kicks the little logo of her sitcom next to her, to demonstrate the wackiness that will ensue if we are to watch this program. Gag.
As for THIS program, some of my early favorite acts in the Top 48 include: The Fiddleheads, Those Funny Little People, Steven Retchless, Snap Boogie, Silhouettes, Scott Alexander, Miami All Stars, J. Chris Newberg, Geechy Guy, Fatally Unique, Daniel Joseph Baker, Attack Dance Crew, and Zuma Zuma.
Starting next week, these acts will perform in groups of 12, and America will start to vote. And Whitney! will air Thursdays this fall on NBC. Did your favorite acts get through, or did they get the shaft? Who will you be voting for? Sound off with your comments here!
For another take on this week’s episodes, read “Not Everything Stays in Vegas Week” by Gabe Callahan.
Season 6, Episodes 10 and 11 (originally aired July 5 and 6, 2011)
America’s Got Talent airs Tues/Wednesdays at 8pm EST on NBC.
Read more America’s Got Talent reviews here.
Photos courtesy of NBC and Chris Haston.