It’s the moment that two, maybe three of you have been waiting for…That’s right, the penultimate episode of AMERICA’S GOT TALENT! Tonight, ten acts of varied talents (and varying talent) vie one last time for the votes of the American public in hopes of winning the million dollar prize. By now, you’re all familiar with our host, Regis Philbin (to you kiddies out there, he’s the septuagenarian version Ryan Seacrest), as well our judges, David Hasselhoff (The Hoff), Brandy (The Boff), and Piers Morgan (The Toff).
What about our finalists? The ten talents who have worked their tushies off to compete tonight are: Taylor Ware, The Miller Brothers, At Last, Bianca Ryan, The Passing Zone, Rappin’ Granny, Realis, Celtic Spring, All That, and Quick Change. Brandy informs us that not only have all the acts have been practicing their hopeful little hearts out, they’ve had some help: look out for some special star judges have shown up to lend their expertise. David he thinks it’s down to “who has the heart, who wants it the most, and who is absolutely in the zone.” Is this a subliminal reference to the group that will set The Hoff (literally) on fire? Let’s skip the filler and get down to what counts…Without further ado, the performances for the first AGT.
At First, At Last
At Last is ironically the first act to perform—but first, before At Last, some background: this “hip hop appella” singing group from Los Angeles live together, practice together, and work together for a common cause—like Robin Hood’s Band of Merry Men, except…Asian-American. And not…thieves. Or medieval, obviously. Okay, I’m way off track here. Well, one fine day in
Sherwood ForestKoreatown, our band of merry music men were met by a surprise guest who came to coach, critique, and coax them to do their best: CHAKA KHAN!
Is it just me or, everytime she appears anywhere, do you hear the mental soundtrack of ChakaChakaChakaKhanChakaKhanLe tMeRockYouChakaKhan…C’mon, I’m not the only one, am I? At any rate, it’s Chaka frickin’ Khan, Grammy Winner, singer of one of my favorite all time funk tunes, “Tell Me Something Good” and musical icon. After giving them advice on fine-tuning their performance, Chaka says, “I’ll tell you the truth…I feel that you guys really have a great shot.” She also says she’d put her money on them to win. I didn’t know ChakaKhanChakaKhan was the betting type!
Finally, it’s the big moment for the boys from At Last. The next time we see them, they are onstage at Paramount, with their customary hipster clothing and slickster demeanor, and start off the proceedings with their unique rendition of “Killing Me Softly” (made famous Roberta Flack and, of course, The Fugees). Their usual smooth as silk vocal harmonies and dynamic beat boxing are this time supplemented by pop-n-lock dancers and then, in a final flourish, live Taiko drummers.
It’s a bravura number that gets the audience on its feet for a standing O. But how dot he judges feel? The Hoff says that his opinion is that At Last didn’t need the dancers, drummers, or confetti—“What the appeal of you guys is, is your heart, and it comes through in your music.” The Hoff gives them a check, and I give The Hoff an X for awkward sentence construction (sorry, it’s the English major in me). Brandy says she was “expecting a little bit more” but still gives them a check. I have a feeling Brandy is one of those confusing, mixed-signal type of girls that are a nightmare to date (“You’re really great, but you’re suffocating me, but I love you, but I need my space, but not too much space, where are you going, come back, get away from me…”). Piers is far more unequivocal. He says, “The act that’s gonna win this competition is the act that every single time we’ve seen you have thought about it and got better and brought something more to your act…I can see you guys now doing a 90 minute show…it was bigger, better…you’re gonna take some beating; you guys are talented.” Piers gives them a check and I give Piers an X and The William Faulkner Award for Run-On Sentences (and I even cut out some of the quote).
The Only Thing Permanent is (Quick) Change
David and Dania are possibly the most controversial act to appear on AGT this season. They are professionals, traveling and doing their Quick Change act 300 days out of the year around the world. This time, we learn that they have a 13 year old son, who must often have the house to himself to PAR-TAY like it’s a cheaply produced teen romp in 1988—woohoo! Their celeb coach is Steve Valentine, from “Crossing Jordan” about whom David says, “What you may not know is that he is a dynamic close-up magician who is a two time champion at the Magic Castle.” Are you kidding me, I didn’t even know he was an actor. Still, he seems like a good fellow, and two time Magic Castle Champ? Kudos! Steve says he is “one Englishman that gets it.”; alluding to Piers Morgan’s criticism…or maybe…Piers’s love life? Steve goes on to say, “You don’t go to a lion tamer and say ‘Hey next week can you do monkeys?’” Ooh I love monkeys! Hey can you do monkeys? Monkeys that change outfits? That’s the ticket.
Steve Valentine makes some suggestions, and now it’s time to see how it effects the act. Their number starts with two live singers in 60s outfits wailing “Let me stand next to your fire!” and dancing around the footlights while David and Dania do virtually their same exact act upstage. The only changes this time are: the swingin’ 60s theme, a fuschia bouffant wig, David slips into a rainbow suit, and Dania ends with an NBC-themed gown. If you ask me, the singers (while great singers, don’t get me wrong) are superfluous and distracting from the main act. But as usual the actual execution of D&D’s Quick Change trick is flawless as ever. And the glitter trick always leaves me slackjawed! Fifty million times I’ve seen this now and I still can’t figure it out.
But wait, there’s more! And I don’t just mean the flying paper streamers that some poor crew guy will have to risk his life to clear from the rafters (now that’s talent!). Someone else is joining their act tonight. Out comes Brandy in one of Quick Change’s black & white polka dot numbers. David holds a curtain in front of Brandy, and in all of three seconds, she’s in a full length, pure white gown.
Brandy returns to the panel, and the judging begins. The Hoff says they don’t have to impress Piers tonight since he’s not voting—unfortunately, he still gets to talk. The Hoff believe they were “on their game” and gives them a hearty check. Brandy says that even as a participant, she still doesn’t know how they do their trick. Piers is predictably snarky, saying it takes a magician to put the lovely Brandy in one of their “ridiculous” dresses. David gets defensive again, but makes a good point, saying that Piers is “allowed to judge but not allowed to belittle.” Piers is unrepentant and gives them a big, fat X. With all the hoopla, did Brandy even give her score?
Please Granny Don’t Hurt ‘Em!
Next up is Vivian Smallwood, whom everyone knows as the Rappin’ Granny. We get to see Rappin’ Granny in her hood, working with her DJ son on her music. He is proud to see his Moms “rockin’ to [his] beats” onstage. Well, you know what they say, the family that raps together, stays outta crap together. Okay, nobody says this, but look at how Hip Hop can bring family together. They show Granny in her kitchen making outrageously good-looking macaroni ‘n’ cheese for their weekly “Family Night.” Gorram that mac‘n’chee looks good, when am I invited over?!! Not only can Granny rap and cook, but good heavens, she plays basketball too! Cut to shot of Granny shooting hoops. Talk about your ballers. This Granny could definitely beat my granny, on court of off.
Her special coach is Master P, rap mogul. I’m guessing he’s not there to help Vivian with her ballroom dancing. He hopes Granny’s act can open doors and bring together generations. He then points threateningly at the camera and says, “She better win, America.” Gah! I better throw some votes her way before Master P puts the beat down on me.
For her entrance, Granny appears in a cloud of smoke on a rumbling motorcycle. With her trademark specs, and a glittery version of her housedress, she commands every one to “Get up if you’re feeling Granny.” Four back-up dancers accompany her in a serious hip hop dance number before she throws off her wig and gets on with her lyrical flow: “What time is it? It’s Granny Time. You better step off cuz Granny’s going off!” She even has her own dance, the “Granny Snatch” a chest-popping number that gives Shakira a run for her money.
Brandy declares, “Everybody wishes their grandma were like you.” Now, I know Rappin’ Granny has her detractors, but I love her, and yes, I like the idea of a grandmother that can make killer mac’n’chee and is capable of busting a cap in the ass of anyone who messes with her own. After gushing incoherently like a cokehead on an all night bender, Brandy gives Granny a check. Piers, who clearly has a bee in his bonnet tonight, decides that she is a great entertainer, but not a million dollar talent, then X’s her. Oh Master P’s gonna be knockin’ down your door, Piers! The Hoff says she’s not worth one, but two million dollars. He thinks she “upped” her performance and is impressed that she didn’t just do a “cheeky little dance,” she had a full-on, choreographed number with back up dancers. Hoff checks her. Granny, with typical sweet grandmotherliness, says she loves everyone anyway. “Piers I love you too, Baby.” Piers responds, “I love you too, Granny.”
The Little Filly from Philly
Bianca Ryan welcomes us to see her hometown, Philadelphia. When she’s not busy shocking people with her preternaturally mature voice, she enjoys Philly cheesesteaks, which are “only good in Philly.” Great, now I’m not only craving mac’n’chee, but a cheesesteak now too. We meet her happy family, see a pep rally for her at her school, and watch her signing autographs like a little star. Yolanda Adams, who is “like my favorite singer in the entire world” surprises Bianca by appearing one day. Bianca is overwhelmed, and Yolanda gives her a big hug. After singing together, Yolanda says that Bianca has all ready has skills that “take years and years to teach…There’s not much that I could really teach her!”
Bianca appears onstage barefoot again, and in a green dress that, with her auburn locks, makes her look a little bit like she’s in a Poison Ivy Halloween costume. But when she opens her mouth to sing, her performance is so mature and polished that it’s scary, quite frankly. Doing Jennifer Holliday’s “I am Changing,” her voice not only sounds powerful, but she works the stage like a seasoned pro.
Not surprisingly, she gets a standing O from the audience. She even pleases Mr. Grumpy Knickers, Piers, who says he thinks she’s going to win the competition. Check! Brandy says Bianca is so good, “You make me wanna go practice.” Considering the reception her last couple of albums got, that’s probably a good idea. Check! The Hoff says Bianca reminds him of Liza Minelli in that she is a versatile artist that is in your face, and really forces audiences to feel things. He deems her “the best in this competition.” Unanimous checkage!
All That Jazz
Mike, Mark, Kenneth, Brian, and Delawn (sp?) are All That. I mean, they’re not “all that,” they are the clog dancing group All That; which isn’t to say they aren’t all that, I just mean…oh forget about it. This group of down-to-earth good ol’ boys started as individual dancers who kept winning clogging competitions until they thought, Heyyy, how about we just dance together? It’s a crazy idea, but it juuust might work. And it did. Their spur-of-the-moment decision to register for AGT got them through round after round to make them the judges’ choice.
Their celeb coach is Dave Scott, choreographer. [Crickets] Okay, well let’s just move along. Many days of practice later, we get to see the fruits of their labor. All That comes out onstage looking smart in snazzy black shirts and white ties, and start their number with their special brand of spiced up and superbly synchronized clogging, this time accompanied by a live marching band. They have a duel with one of the drummers from the studio band—whose hat and jacket are pixellated. Dangit, now I’m dying to know what it says! “I’d rather be watching Project Runway”? “The Hoff can **** ***”? @#$!? But I digress. All That does their thing, and prove that they are so good at what they do, they can do it with their eyes closed! With their ties held up over their faces, they hoof away, still perfectly in sync. They end with that Bugs Bunny fast tap I so love, and then it’s time to
The Hoff gushes over how he’s loved them from the start, and in his “heart of hearts” they have been his favorite, etc. [bratty 5 year old voice] If you love them so much, David, why don’t you marry them? He then says Bianca now has a run for her money before bestowing upon them the all important check. These guys are tops with Brandy too, but before she can say very much, David continues his praise of All That. They get a check from her. Piers says that despite his earlier disdain for their wardrobe, these guys now look like stars, and checks them.
Yodels (Not the Drakes Cakes)
Taylor Ware is the cute girl in pigtails that yodeled her way into the hearts of America. We see her riding on horseback in her little hometown of Franklin, Tennessee. She says she likes hanging out with her girlfriends and going to downtown Franklin to smoke—what?!! Oh I’m sorry, she’s saying they like “smoked bologna sandwiches,” not that other thing I was thinking. Funny, I now have the munchies for smoked bologna sandwiches, cream-filled Yodels, philly cheesesteaks, and mac’n’chee. They should change this show to “America’s Got Me Hungry!” Anyway, we see that Taylor is exactly the sweet little girl she appears to be, and the whole town of Franklin is behind her, even declaring an official “Taylor Ware Day.” Her coach is Tom McBride. [Crickets] He’s the “Dollywood Arranger,” whatever the heck that means. Anyway, he and music producer Tom Reeves help her out in the studio.
Back to performance night. Taylor Ware shows up onstage with bales of hay and people in Western wear strewn about. She tosses her cowboy hat into the crowd before singing a simple little country ditty that makes me want to yodel—and I generally hate country and yodeling! The couples behind her two-step while she yodels her pretty, little head off with precision and a smile.
Brandy likes her style, but says she wasn’t feeling the performance tonight, because she wanted her to start yodeling a lot sooner. Piers, off his bipolar meds apparently, interrupts and argues that Taylor was “brilliant.” They have a heated argument with Piers passionately defending her and giving her a check. Hoff is weird and ambivalent again, and saying he lost the “connection” with the “heart and innocence” but then declares her a “big star” and checks her. Brandy again forgets to register her vote, but at the last minute gives her check, maybe not wanting to look like a big ol’ meanie. Apparently Taylor has been passing her self-taught skills around, evinced when she and her little brother yodel the outro the the commercials.
The Hoffing Zone
When we come back from break, we see Jon and Owen of the Passing Zone at home with their respective wives and kids–You mean these guys aren’t actually a gay couple? Awww, I’m disappointed. Well, maybe they’re just “passing.” Anyhoo, they have been juggling together 18 years, and hope that they bring not only skill and creativity to their juggling act, but a level of entertainment and comedic element unique to their craft. Speaking of a duo of unconventional entertainers who incorporate humor into their act, maverick magicians Penn & Teller are The Passing Zone’s personal coaches. They take the guys to “New York street” on the Paramount Lot for a little practice, and Penn & Tellerian hijinx. Penn says (because, you know, Teller can’t), “If America is voting for cute, then someone else might win, but if America’s voting for skill and showbiz, The Passing Zone has all ready won.” Penn then basically tells the vocally anti-juggler Hoff to stick it.
The Hoff will have to learn to stick it when he becomes a part of the Passing Zone’s act tonight. That’s right, the Passing Zone will hassle the Hoff to come onstage and be a part of their performance. They threaten him with sickles, heightening the tension with an effective comedy routine that shows Jon all butterfingers. But before they begin, they add more to the act. They load the Hoof up with ridiculous gear, because David will hold up four spinning plates and wear a ridiculous helmet (“Kevorkian headgear”) that spins flaming torches as Jon and Owen (themselves wearing torch-topped helmets) juggle blades around his helpless Hoffness. Four dinner plates? $4.99. Six specially designed flaming torches? $59.99 Humiliating the Hoff? Priceless.
As if they needed any more after the breathless stunt, the duo juggle chainsaws together. Finally, it’s judgment time. Brandy says they did a good job, and everyone gives a round of applause to David. She gives them a check for bringing “something different to the final.” Piers says the one time he really wanted a juggler to drop something, they get it right. Piers says he would give a million dollars just to see a sickle cut the Hoff’s hair off, and the Passing Zone joke that “We can be bought.” Or were they “joking”? Watch out, Hoff, you might have to borrow Granny’s wig! Piers says they throw the competition wide open, and he gives them a check. Either the Hoff is too shaken from the performance to vote, or the editors are getting tired, because we don’t see his vote.
Spring Forward, Fall Back
Celtic Spring is a big, crunchy, natural family that lives on a farm with animals and stuff in Ojai, California. The mom says she wanted to raise her six kids to appreciate nature, culture, books, music. Okay, I’m with you so far…but no video games or TV! I am not voting for these people on principle alone! I’m sure they’re lovely people but, there is a creepy, insular vibe about about these people, as if they would have no problem surviving if a nuclear war decimated the entire population and left them alone to repopulate the earth. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to my mindless video games and soul sucking boob tube.
Their coach is Tara Barry, a real Irish person (with really pretty hair!) who is the lead dancer of Riverdance. I bet she doesn’t mind watching telly now and again! As a coach, she is rather hard on them, really on their cases about tightening their steps and being more precise. I like her tough love coaching, Irish accent, and gorgeous hair! How does she do her hair? Sorry, drifting off again.
The Celtic Spring crew (still with their parents and wee brother) do an Irish-flavoured “Amazing Grace.” Yes, it takes skill to play their instruments. Yes, it takes skill to dance. And yes, it takes even more skill and effort to play instruments while you dance. Yet, I can’t shake off the spooky Village of the Damned feeling these kids give me, especially the littlest brother who comes out dancing with a dead expression that would make The Omen’s Damien go crying home to his mummy.
Hoff didn’t like them as much tonight, feeling that were not as in sync. Still, tonight the Hoff is giving out checks like they’re going out of style. Brandy praises them, but Celtic Spring has an annoying habit of talking over the judges even when they’re being complimented; still, they get the check. Get off the farm every once in a while, learn some social skills! Now it’s Piers’s turn. His criticism is the same, the five main Springers are good, the rest are holding them back. He also found the choice of “Amazing Grace” to be “cheesy.” Piers gives them the big, fat X. Daddy Celtic fights back with, “You’re still one of our top three judges.” Reeeooowrrr, kitty has claws!
Let’s Be Realis-tic
The acrobatic duo of Realis is next. Shaney Booth and Arthur Davis (I really hope I got these names right, NBC you need to caption these people’s names!) are a teeny, tiny woman and big, tall guy wrapped up in one graceful package o’ cute. They met when they both had been abandoned by their former partners and coaches, but they clicked, and every day since then they practice their routines hundreds of times in order to get it perfectly. But it’s not just work, they’re best friends too. Gene Lubas , artistic director or Cirque Du Soleil’s edgy Zumanity. He was impressed by the double front toss they did, and he hopes they’ll do something similarly memorable this time around.
Their number is mix of dance elements and cri-zazy-ass gymnastics. Arthur tosses Shenay around like she is a beach ball, and Shenay flies around like forest sprite. They start off with the double front toss Gene had complimented, then Arthur does a split on the ground while Shenay balances above him with one arm! A million tosses and flips (that they make look so easy) later, and it’s time to see what the judges think.
Piers says they are very good as usual, but he didn’t like the music. Why judge them on the music? They didn’t make it, judge them on their actual act! After a long tirade on how bad the music was, he gives them a check. Bipolar meds…running out. Brandy says to forget about Piers, they’re great athletes. Checkity check from the Brandster. The Hoff says they’re “one of a kind” and were “spectacular” tonight. Chiggity-checky-check from Hoffalamabingbang.
Cole and LD, the Miller Brothers, take us to their hometown of Lafayette, Indiana. They have the support of all their family, friends, and the good folks of Lafayette, who attended a big rally for the boys, which turned into a 2 ½ hour concert. They’re also from a family band, but if you ask me, seem a lot more normal than the Eltic-Cay Ing-Spray. They make sure to rock out every day. One of their usual sessions is joined by a special guest: John Popper, famous singer and ace harmonica player from Blues Traveler, who also happens to be LD’s idol. We see them all jamming together. Popper, who’s looking better than ever, says he could tell these guys are “true musicians” who have a “huge career ahead of them no matter what happens in this competition.”
The Millers get up, and backed by AGT’s rockin’ studio band, do their rendition of “Hard to Handle” (popularized by the Black Crowes, but my favorite version is Otis Redding’s). Now, unlike Piers, I am not a Cole-hater; however, did he screw up a couple of lines during the song, or is he just really mushy-mouthed? I don’t think the lyrics are “duh-dong-dong-donga-digga-digga don’t know whatta say” or is this some kind of blues version of scatting? LD, as usual, shines during his harmonica solos. I mean, this kid just goes off, a true phenom, “stomping around like a little Frankenstein” as Reeg says.
The Hoffy likey; he say: “the unity between the two of you was so much better than before, and obviously you are the best harmonica player I have ever seen.” After extending his highest compliment (“Awesome!”), the Hoff checks them. Brandy simply says they’re the reason why America should vote, then checks them. Piers, ever the naysayer, just has to get a dig in. Piers still find LD a “genius harmonica player” but is upset that not only did LD not “sack” his brother as Piers advised, but “promoted” him as well. Piers says he couldn’t even hear the harmonica over the singing—well maybe that’s because your head is too far up your ass to hear anything, Piers! Piers says, “You blew it,” and slaps them with a nasty, angry X. Regis asks the Millers how they feel about this, and LD gives a classy response. “The man thinks what he wants. I can’t change his opinion, that’s him. We take everything as a positive…”
That’s it for the performances. Who wins it all? Tune into NBC Thursday night to find out who America voted for…or log onto the FORT for Roseskid’s million dollar recap to find out.
I’m trying out a new compliment, “You guys are Hoffsome!” Yay or nay, vote at snowflakegirl@fansofrealitytv. com