(Registered members may comment here)

All right, who ordered the extra hour? This week, AMERICA’S GOT TALENT gets a little closer to giving away the million dollar prize with a special (and suddenly) supersized two-hour episode, presenting the first of four semi-final rounds. Only this time, it’s not only the judges who get to have a say, but those of us in the viewing audience with the wherewithal to vote.

System of Checks and Balances

The good ratings must have convinced Regis Philbin to dress up, because with each passing week, he’s dressing progressively better—or has Piers just been criticizing his choice of wardrobe? Reeg, in a smart magenta tie and jacket that appears to be made of black fondant icing, proudly shows off their fancy new stage, replete with the world’s most resplendent set lighting, before informing us that with the auditions now over, it’s time for us to select which acts will be going on to compete in the $1 million finale.

Of the acts tonight, only two will continue with hopes of winning the grand prize. Tonight, one act will be chosen by the judges to advance automatically to the next round, but the other will be determined by America. The voice of the people will be heard via phone (1-866-U-LOVE + contestant number, i.e. 01-10), text, or online voting (at nbc.com)—limit ten votes per method.

Speaking of the judges, Reeg introduces our esteemed judging panel as “The Big Hasselhoff” (the black cast on his right arm a reminder of his freak shaving/chandelier/gym accident), “The Beautiful Brandy” (who needs to be put in a Celebrity Deathmatch against Paula Abdul), and “The Unpredictable and Sinister Piers Morgan” (attempt to cast Piers as the villain, or personal conflicts with Regis after insulting his clothing—you decide).

Regis explains that during the auditions, the judges picked 61 acts to participate in the semi-finals. The 61 have been split into 4 groups, which we will see over next few weeks. Thus spake the Hoff: “To win a million dollars, the act has to be absolutely perfect,” hence, we see in a clips package that the talent have been busy beavers, hard at work practicing in LA to refine their acts for their big moment.

Unfortunately, not everyone will be getting that moment. Reeg tells us that there are 15 acts sitting in studio audience; however, there is only time for 10 performances (whom the judges picked by watching them all perform one more time pre-show, then deliberating which 10 to put on the show). C’mon, with all the endless recapping and pointless clip montages, you guys could have slipped in a couple more acts if you wanted! Nonetheless, for 5 unlucky acts, tonight “the journey will end.” Why do they insist on torturing these poor people in an effort to create unnecessary suspense? (Also, that statement sounds a bit grim, like they will take the 5 unchosen and have them put to sleep—I mean, take them to a nice farm where they will run around happy for the rest of their days, Little Snowy.)

Another change: The X system’s a little different now too. The judges can no longer stop an act, but after the performance, they will indicate their pleasure or displeasure by either pressing the button to give a check mark or an X. This is solely to give everyone an idea of the judges’ opinions, and no longer an actual vote. The old buzzers are dead, long live the new buzzers!

And now it’s time to call up the acts. The Hoff dramatically hands Reeg the list of chosen ones using his injured hand, the black cast on which makes him look like a new (albeit cheap and cheesy) Bond villain, the evil syndicated TV star with the cybernetic hand. Who will the first contender be?

Yodel-Ay-EEE–Whoooo’s Got Talent?

Taylor Ware – The first act to return to the stage is this fresh-faced, uber-cute, self-taught yodeler from Tennessee, who is an 11-year-old girl that, refreshingly in this day and age, actually looks like an 11-year-old girl (and not some midget Celine Dion)! She confesses that in her early days of yodeling, she drove her parents nuts. At one point, her father even asked, “Why are you doing this? Because it sounds horrible.” He later called after her TV performance to say, “Oh my gosh…How did you do that?!!” Is her father Leonard Shelby, or is he really just that clueless? But I digress—what was I saying? See, I have this condition

Taylor proceeds to do “I Want to Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart,” a staple at creepy little girls’ beauty pageants, but magically manages to make it not annoying. In fact, when she yodels, I love it, and thoroughly enjoy her vocal acrobatics which are impressive but not overdone. She yodels so fast, she even gets ahead of the band at one point.

The judges love her too. The Hoff says that even though it’s the third time he’s seen her, he still loves her act, and gives her a check. Brandy also checks her for finding a unique way to use her voice as an instrument. Piers cops to suspecting Taylor to be a novelty act initially, but as she grows stronger every week, he feels that she has the “unique talent and star quality” it takes to win this competition. Unanimous checkage for Taylor!

Before Reeg throws it to break, he attempts to hit the same high note Taylor ended her song with, and begs for compliments by asking, “Not bad, huh?” Don’t quit your day job(s), Reeg, unless you’re planning on switching careers to professional tea kettle.

They’re Clog, They’re Clog, They’re Big, They’re Heavy, They’re Wood

The camera pans over the hopeful contenders before stopping on…

All That – This fleet-footed clogging ensemble with a name that always reminds me of the Freddie Prinze Jr./Rachel Leigh Cook film is definitely talented; however, like Piers, I am distracted by their curious penchant for dressing like gas station attendants. It’s not just the ratty jeans, or the dung-colored shirts with the sleeves cut off, but the visible sweaty pit stains. What happened to the old adage, “Never let ‘em see you sweat”? Like Laney in She’s All That, they could stand for a little makeover.

Still, these cloggers are undeniably fantastic dancers who have enlightened me on the world of contemporary clogging. To the tune of PussyCat Dolls’ “Buttons,” these good ol’ boys clomp their little tappy toes way into the hearts of America with a superbly choreographed routine that gets the crowd pumped. I especially enjoy the little Bugs Bunny tap dance at the end, followed by a little old school boy band pose—the “Forceful Finger Point” coupled with the “Angry Arm Cross.”

Brandy deems them “great” and loves how “in sync” they all were (or did she mean N’SYNC?); she gives them an enthusiastic check. “To make it in this competition, you have to take it up a notch,” sayeth the Hoff, “And man, you guys took it up a huge notch!” Hoff slams on the check button with such force, I fear he’s about to reinjure himself. Piers, putting on his Cranky Pants, says he was “a bit disappointed” and again evinces his obsession with clothing by criticizing their look as “last millenium,” advising that next time they dress up in something classier, like some suits (maybe borrow some from Reeg). For her retort. Brandy has to make it about Piers being a scary foreigner when she says, “This is America, it’s not England, and this is how Americans look.” USA! USA! Does it make me un-patriotic to say I actually agree with the limey? [FBI bursts in and busts SFG]

Despite his sartorial skepticism, Piers thinks All That has a genuine chance of winning, and gives them a check. “If all it takes to win a million dollars is changing our pants, [then] baby, we can roll with it,” says the group’s leader.

Camera pans over the hopeful contestants who look nervously to Reeg to call their name—except the world’s oldest (and tannest!) male stripper, Bernie, who appears busy inspecting his frontal package, so to speak. Perhaps he’s adjusting his props, in case he’s called next? [shudder] There is a collective sigh of relief as anyone other than Bernie’s name is called.

Son of Godzilla Theater

Kevin Johnson- This ventriloquist from San Diego, CA was a huge hit previously with his Godzilla Theater bit and the aid of fine feathered friends Mathilda and Clyde. Inspired by his magician grandfather, Kevin hopes people will see this as “something more than just ventriloquism.” Reeg, who disconcertingly keeps popping up in random, different locations the whole show, introduces Kevin from the balcony area surrounded by babes. What’s next, they’ll cut to Reeg announcing from a hot tub, eating chicken?

Kevin hopes to take it to the next level with some new schtick that shows off his voice throwing prowess by pretending to muck up the sound engineering and switching voices and personas with his puppet pals. He also does a Godzilla Theater remix, that to me is not substantially different from his first performance. He does get points from me for likening Hasselhoff to Godzilla, however.

Piers’s concern is that Kevin is a “one trick pony.” An extraordinarily good one trick pony, but one trick nonetheless. Piers feels Kevin did basically the same act—it’s at this point where Kevin gets angry and a little scary…He uses his puppets to lash out and insult Piers (and flatter the Hoff), while he attempts to “quiet” them and appear innocent. Yes, perhaps it is “something more than just ventriloquism”—how about multiple personality disorder? Piers checks him anyway, perhaps out of sheer fear for his life. The Hoff, however, is genuinely a fan and challenges Kevin to “keep going” with a check. Brandy also gives a check, making this show X-less so far. (The key to this show seems to be to go onstage early, when the judges and crowd are feeling generous.)

American Ideal

Alexis Jordan – This pretty 14 year old singer/dancer says she “got chills” after her first performance on AGT, which has all ready made her a star. She’s gotten her first fan sighting, picture request, and I’ve heard rumors that Brad is leaving Angie for her! (Sorry, just practicing my celebrity rumor-mongering skills.) “I am going to sing my heart out,” Alexis says earnestly.

And she does. She belts out “At Last” with a lot of heart, and a lot of power. Such a big voice for a pretty little girl! The judges love her, although they still think she can improve. The Hoff finds her “terrific” but says she can use “more training” and gives her a check after a strange speech about how she is “fulfilling the dreams of so many other children” which I suppose is meant to be touching but comes out a little rambling—methinks Dr. Feelgood must have prescribed some fun stuff for the Hoff’s hand.

Brandy takes one from the Paula Abdul playbook by pulling out words like “pure” and “pitch”; but ultimately, she gives Alexis a check, saying “You’re hot.” Piers invokes Simon Cowell both figuratively and literally. By being a meany: he thinks Alexis was “shouting too much” and says “Just because you’re 14 doesn’t mean we have to be nicer to you than any of the others; it wouldn’t be fair.” By mentioning that with a better song selection, she could be “what Simon Cowell promised me we’d get on this show, which is a young Whitney Houston.” He gives her a check, advising her to select a softer song more suited to her voice if she makes it to the finale.

Droppin’ the Ball

Vladik – As tempting as it is to fill this section with ball jokes, I’ll try to refrain. Vladik is juggler/acrobat/dancer. Let’s call him a juggrobancer. Originally from Russia, he’s been performing professionally since he was 4, and now calls Vegas his home. As he enters the stage, I think to myself, wow, people are really into performing in jeans and cut off tanks these days. Is this an improvement from shiny spandex and body makeup? I say no! In fact, as I recap this, I myself am in a neon-colored leotard and covered in glitter.* [*These are what Shazzer makes me wear, or else I get the hose again.]

So slinky, sinewy Vladik does boneless dance while simultaneously keeping a number of balls up in the air, as many as 8 at a time. For his big finish, he gets up on a single ladder and balances in the air while juggling 5 balls. Unfortunately, as he tosses them to an assistant who waits with a basket below, one falls to the floor. Oopsy.

The crowd loves him, as does Brandy, who gives him a check. Piers liked Vladik’s first performance better, and chides Vladik for dropping a ball, which in his eyes is “the ultimate crime for jugglers.” Funny, I thought the ultimate crime for jugglers was MIME MURDER. But my personal fantasies aside, Piers expected to blown away and was not, so he finally gives out an X.

Hasselhoff gets Hasseltough, earning his reputation for being juggler-phobic by telling Vladik, “some of the talent we’ve seen on this show is far superior to what you’re doing…What you’re doing is great, it’s great for Santa Monica Blvd., but not this competition.” Ahem, methinks the Hoff made a Freudian slip meaning Santa Monica Promenade, because the talent I’ve seen prowling the Boulevard is quite different. There’s a nasty exchange of words between Hoff and Vladik, but it ultimately ends with the Hoff accidentally giving Vladik a check. There remains controversy over whether Vladik or his female assistant is responsible for the dropped ball, and Reeg, despite pronouncing the guy’s name five different ways, apologizes to Vladik for the microphone coming up to end his act earlier than he’d planned.

Life’s Not a Cabaret

Shawn Ryan – This glib guy is a “cabaret jazz singer” in need of a cruise ship piano lounge. His showmanship, while energetic, borders on a cheesy caricature of cabaret (of which I am actually a fan). He comes off as a cross between Michael Bublé and a Honeybaked Ham, stuffed into a cast-off suit that once belonged to Stephen from “Top Chef.” To make it worse, his voice gets really rough at the end, and he can’t pull off the big finish gracefully.

Piers says while Shawn seems to have what it takes to be in a “Broadway Show” he doesn’t think it’s what it’ll take to win AGT’s million dollar prize. No check from Piers! Brandy liked him better the first time, but still gives him a check. The Hoff disliked the raspiness in Shawn’s voice tonight, and while he thinks Shawn has talent, won’t give up the check tonight, for a total of two X’s and one sympathy check.

Reeg approaches Shawn for a bit of banter. We learn that Shawn actually has a few albums out, and one was nominated for a Grammy the same year as Regis’s “Christmas Album.” Well, if he’s this established a performer, why is he even on this show? “Did I win?” Reeg asks, having a senior moment. Alas, it seems they were both losers that year.

Speaking of senior moments, the second hour of the night begins with a recap of what happened in the previous hour. How bad is America’s collective attention deficit disorder that they can’t recall what just happened less than an hour ago; or is this a special episode for people with Alzheimer’s? What was I saying? Ah yes, I’m recapping…well, this is point in the show when the judges and crowd (and recapper) start to get testy. Even the remaining nine acts in the crowd look increasingly anxious, as their chances of being called grow smaller and smaller. Who is the next performer to take the stage?

An Act For the Dogs

J.R. Johns and His Best Friends – This dog act was a knock-out the first time we saw it, will it kill the crowd again? J.R. says he’s chosen to go in a “completely new direction from the first piece” because the Hoff “specifically and pointedly asked, ‘Is that all you do?’” Well, they take a completely new and different direction, all right—from wonderful to crappy.

The new dog piece does not have any of the excitement and magic the first one did. There are no laughs, no applause. Instead, there are long, awkward pauses, during which they cut away to lingering shots of the bored judges. Bet they wish they had those old buzzers now. Sadly, this new act is simply Baaad. In fact, there’s barely much of an act there, it’s simply J.R. putting the dogs in different costumes which, let’s face it, isn’t so much a talent as something crazy, twisted people do. [SFG gets up to dress her sock monkey as an Elizabethan merchant for a photo session.] There is a very looong moment in which J.R. switches a baby bonnet and pacifier with one of his dogs. Not only does it take forever to pull off, it has me icked out at the thought that he might be sharing a pacifier with a dog. Yikes, next time, leave the costume changing to the Quick Change Artists. I’m not even going to touch the weird, pot-smoking Rasta Dog (that’s not very family-friendly—kids, just say no!).

Even the audience barely backs him up, and J.R. must desperately beg for applause. The judges don’t even know what to say, although the words “disappointed,” “bad” and “uncomfortable” come up. Reeg points out that all these dogs have been rescued, which is admirable, and J.R. insists that his dogs “end up with the best life in the world.” The panel isn’t judging on his kindness toward canines (which I do applaud) but on how entertaining his act is. J.R. and his friends get the dreaded triple X (only your vote can save them now).

Hoops McGee

Hoopalicious – Anna, a hippy dippy cross between Tilda Swinton’s White Witch in Chronicles of Narnia and a deconstructed Allison Goldfrapp, is a vision in a stretchy gold lamé catsuit with a peekaboo backside. Now that’s how talent should dress! She says she’s from a “unique family” of artists, activists (i.e. hippies) who very much support her artistic expression: hoop dance. That’s right, dancing with hula hoops. That might sound silly, but hey, she gets to travel the world and earn her keep entirely by “shaking my booty inside of a hoop.” You go, girl!

Her act is a mesmerizing blend of Middle Eastern-y dance and smoothly executed hoop tricks that integrate nicely with the dance instead of just being a series of separate stunts. She whips two hoops around simultaneously with seamless grace, all the while wearing a serene smile that says she likely shared a toke off of Rasta Dog backstage (still, kids, just say no).

Brandy and David pour out the love, perhaps from catching a contact buzz. Brandy appreciates that what Hoopalicious does is an “art” that’s “special and unique”—check! The Hoff describes her as “so sensual, and so into it” (the depth to which the Hoff is “into it” only slightly disturbing)—check! Immune to her visual terpsichorean THC, Piers says that the hoop thing is “not my bag” (who is he, Austin Powers?), and she should quit the hoop thing and just take up belly dancing—check?!! Well maybe he’s not so immune after all, as it seems his motor functions are impaired and he hit the wrong button, inadvertently giving Hoopalicious a check.

I Don’t Mean to Harp on You

Corina Brouder – If you recall, Corina is the beautiful brunette harpist and singer from the Bronx. She apparently comes from a large Irish family of musicians who performed together in a family band. Ah, but was it a 100% Natural Good-Time Family-Band? Yeah, that’s right, I’m still making “Arrested Development” jokes, I don’t care that not enough of you watched it to keep it alive, and now it’s cancelled! And I’d do it again, I tell you! [SFG laughs maniacally and runs out of room by crashing through window]

Since the last time she performed the sort of soft, angelic song people would expect from a harpist, Corina decides this time to “spice it up” with a rock classic: “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.” Her mix of the softer sounds of the harp and harder rock elements of the song remind me of the way Tori Amos handles gritty tunes like Led Zeppelin covers, so I definitely like it. Do the judges agree?

Not so much. Piers professes to being a “big fan” however he does not like her song choice, preferring that she stick to the soft, angelic stuff and “not [try] to be Axel Rose’s kid sister.” Still, he gives her a check. David agrees with Piers, not liking the “rock chick” persona and wanting her to go more in the direction of “Anya”—I assume he means Enya of New Agey Celtic contemporary pop fame, and not Anya, bunny-fearing demon of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” fame. Still, he gives her a check, possibly because he is besotted by her beauty, about which he flatters her emphatically, causing Corina to blush like a schoolgirl. I can almost imagine him pointing to himself in the mirror with his injured hand, saying, “Oh yeah, the Hoff’s still got it.” Check! In a surprise twist, Brandy plays the meany, and gives Corina an X, saying she was “bored.”

Brotherly Love

Time for the final act, which turns out to be the Miller Brothers. Sorry, Hell If I Know, Bernie the Stripper, Players’ Club, Jessica Sanchez, and Andy Shatange! Sorry if I misspelled or got anyone’s name wrong—Would it kill NBC to give you guys name captions? Andy was smart to wear his first name, at least, on a hat.

The Miller Brothers – L.D. and Cole are typical bickering brothers from Lafayette, Indiana who behind the sibling rivalry, clearly love each other. Cole, guitarist and lead singer (particularly after Piers told L.D. he should never sing again) is a cute rocker type guy, and L.D. is, well, a husky boy, who magically transforms into a freakin’ Golden God when he steps out onstage with a harmonica.

They perform a hard rockin’ number that gets the crowd riled up, especially when L.D. takes front and center for a harmonica solo that blows the audience away, à la Peter Murphy in the old Maxell audio cassette ads. I mean, I have never seen such a chunky kid in leather pants—well, first of all, I’ve just never seen a chunky kid in leather pants—so captivate an audience with this amount of raw, unbridled talent.

Brandy, struck dumb, can only say “Yo,” multiple times. Perhaps there’s no need for words on this one. Hoff checks, Brandy checks, and Piers…well, there goes Piers again, starting trouble. His check comes with a caveat: “There comes a time, L.D., in every potential superstar’s career when you’ve got to make very tough decisions.” He then proceeds to advise L.D. to ditch his brother, because he feels that Cole is keeping him from being a “harmonica superstar.” In a touching moment that makes me a little verklempt and solidifies me as a Miller Brothers fan, L.D. refuses to dump his bro and cries openly onstage. Cole embraces his brother, and graciously jokes that he’ll make a good security guard for L.D. Brandy and the Hoff don’t agree, and neither do I. Reeg also says he hopes they “never break up” then reveals himself to be a thousand years old when he likens L.D. to a young Wayne Newton.

The Judges’ Pick

After a break for deliberation, the judges return with their personal pick, who will automatically advance to the final round: The Millers (although Taylor Ware and All That were also on the short list)! Who else will be joining them to compete for the big bucks in the finale? Tune into NBC Thursday at 9:30 pm Eastern/Pacific for the results of America’s vote, or simply come back here to the FORT for Roseskid’s rockin’ recap.

I’ll tell you who I voted for, if you tell me who you voted for: snowflakegirl@fansofrealitytv. com