AGT 7/26 Recap: America’s Gauntlet of Talent
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As Regis so proudly announces, AMERICA’S GOT TALENT is the number one show in the country right now. This fact, combined with the punishing heat wave that’s swept the nation, leads me to only one conclusion: Americans must be crazy from the heat. Okay, two conclusions: maybe a large number of Nielsen viewers passed out from heat stroke, leaving their televisions on NBC, resulting in an inaccurate ratings reading. After further consideration, make that three possible conclusions: they’re signs 9 and 10 of the Apocalypse (the comeback of the Hoff is clearly the 8th sign). In any case, the success of the show has compelled producers to milk it for all its worth, and air another two-hour gongstravaganza! Aren’t we lucky?
All Trumped Up
It’s week 3 of four semi-final rounds, and Reeg reminds us who the judges and the voters have chosen: The Millers, Taylor Ware, Realis and At Last. Who are the next 2 lucky acts to join them in the finals? Before we even learn who they will be, we need to find out which 10 the judges have decided to give the chance to perform tonight.
Speaking of the judges, it’s time to introduce our esteemed panel. Reeg has been calling David “The Big Hasselhoff” for a few weeks now, which I’ve found amusing, but tonight, he’s upgraded to “The Large, Gigantic Hasselhoff,” which I find borderline creepy, but with which I am still cool…However, if by next week Regis adds something like “The Large, Gigantic, Juicy Hasselhoff,” I might call Reeg’s wife. Perhaps in an effort to be taken more seriously, the Hoff is dressed in a new suit, and pulls out his spectacles more often. Also trying to change it up, Brandy is wearing new, non-dinner plate-looking earrings, and has her hair braided in a different style. Piers looks exactly the same, which makes me wonder if the airline lost his luggage when he flew out to Los Angeles, leaving him with only one suit.
Tonight, 14 acts wait anxiously to see if they have another shot at the million dollar prize. I see they’re finally bringing these people up on stage (even though they still don’t get a name caption, so sorry if any of these are mispelled): Bianca Ryan, Billy Dinerio, Caitlyn Taylor-Love, Chadwick, Elliot Zimet, Gishelle, Kenny Shelton, Marla & Michelle, Nathan Burton, Sonia Lee, Trey Knight’s Stilt World, Team Acrodunk, ten13concept, and Vivian Smallwood, a.k.a. the Rappin’ Granny.
Reeg tells Hoff he’d better not pull any tricks like last week. They want the judge’s decision tonight. Hoff then pulls off an Emmy-worthy performance, pretending he’s “lost” the list of 10 who are supposed to go up tonight. Yeah right. “There’s only one person who can hassle the Hoff and get away with it,” he says, revealing that even he calls himself The Hoff [imagines him at home, slapping his (soon-to-be-ex) wife on the ass and yelling, “Get in the kitchen and make the Hoff a ham sandwich!”]. And just who is this mythical Hoff-Hassler?
Apropos of nothing except ham-handed network cross-promotion, Donald Trump comes out with an envelope in his hand. It’s all too much! I fear my head might explode from the combination of The Donald, The Hoff, and The Reeg all in one location—it’s like the Axis of Ego; plus, I’m all Trumped Out after having also seen Ivanka on “Project Runway” tonight. Reeg tells His Mighty Comb Over to stop dressing like him, as they both are wearing dark suits with hot pink neckties. All right, stop fighting girls: Reeg is in the Barbie Pink and Donald is in Pepto Pink, end of argument.
They make sure to get in three plugs for “The Apprentice” before Donald hands over the envelope. Reeg then fires “The Trumpster” (does he stay awake all night dreaming up these little nicknames for everyone?), before taking out the list of performers and calling out the first act. Like in previous weeks, they each get their own 1-866-U-LOVE number, and the viewers vote after the show.
Ballers on Trampolines
Team Acrodunk will be the first to perform tonight. This group of five uber-energetic young men (seriously, what do they eat for breakfast, I wish I had 1/10th of their energy) are masters of the art of “extreme dunking”—think the Harlem Globetrotters combined with gymnastics, with an emphasis on dunking. They also give back to the community by teaching a program they call “The Sport of Thinking” to young people at schools, which has got be cooler than when my junior high hosted “The Yoplait Mime” at our auditorium.
Team Acrodunk says they guarantee that tonight we will see things we’ve never seen before. Or what? We get our money back? Better yet, how about my two hours? Well, they do perform for an exciting few minutes. There’s so much jumping, flipping and dunking, I feel like I’m getting a workout just watching it. Does the “Sport of Thinking” mean I can “Exercise in My Mind” so I don’t have to go to the gym ever again? Sweet!
What do the judges think? The Hoff says “Awesome” not once, but three times—wait, no, actually four! Either he really likes them, or the Hoff really needs a thesaurus, but at any rate, he gives them a check. Brandy is practically breathless telling them how skilled and entertaining they are, and checks them too. Even the resident curmudgeon, Piers, tells them they have everything it takes to win, and gives Team Acrodunk their third check for the night. Reeg then reveals that the founder of the Team is Jerry Burrell, and is in his 40s, even though he looks no older than 20-something. If the “Sport of Thinking” keeps you looking that young, sign me up!
Where is the Love?
The next act for the night is Caitlyn Taylor Love, a pretty 12-year-old from Harlingen, Texas who looks like Jennifer Beals’s Mini-Me. Caitlyn is preternaturally mature and articulate, perhaps because she has been kicking it around the pageant circuit for some time all ready. In spite of this, I like her, even though I also dislike children who are dressed in gowns more appropriate for 30 year old women at a cocktail party. I’m sorry, but 12 is too young for a dress like that! Oh my God, I can’t believe I just said that—I’m totally turning into my grandma!
Caitlyn busts out “One Moment in Time” with great feeling and confidence, but the judges have some criticism for her. Brandy checks her, but not without stating that she felt the song Caitlyn chose was too big for her, resulting in her not being able to hold her pitch steady. The Hoff agrees on the pitchiness and advises she get more training, but still checks her “for getting this far.” Piers says she looks like a star, but doesn’t think she can sing like a star; he doesn’t think she’s bad but they’ve heard better, and the competition is getting tougher now. He brings up Bianca Ryan as an example of an even younger singer who blew them away. Wow, it’s a pre-pubescent All About Eve! Piers X’s her.
Random Acts of Violins
Reeg calls out Sonia Lee up to the stage. This electric violinist from Detroit, Michigan puts a little Rock City influence into her strings. She feels like her parents might have wished “the dutiful Korean daughter would have gone on to med school and become a neurosurgeon,” but instead Sonia ‘s calling was for the RAWK, baby! Well, classical RAWK (she was once the youngest principal violinist for the Three Tenors). Her first time performing, Piers said he thought violins belong back in the “back of the orchestra.” Can she change his mind?
Sonia comes out in outfit that says, “I ain’t yo philharmonic beeyatch!” and shreds away at her hot pink violin with a vengeance (hot pink appears to be the color of the evening—did she plan this with Reeg and the Donald beforehand?). She does the ROCKINEST version of “Carmina Burana” I’ve ever heard, proving that the classics can kick ass.
Piers, unfortunately, is not convinced. He gives her points for being brave enough to ignore his advice, but likens her performance to the screech of nails on a chalkboard, then gives her an X. Brandy “totally, 100%” disagrees, and gives Sonia a check for doing her own thing. The Hoff also loves what Sonia does, and gives her a check, saying even if she doesn’t make it to the final, she “did a damn good job tonight.” Reeg encourages Sonia to irritate Piers some more, and so Sonia plays us out to the break with her rendition of the AGT theme song on her rad pink violin.
The Magic’s Gone
We come back to discover the next act for the night is Elliot Zimet, a young magician from the Bronx (Reeg’s hometown), who now that I think of it has a more Michael Rapaporty than Seth Greenish air about him. He’s been doing magic since he was nine, and cites Usher as his idol. He decided to combine his two loves, creating a hip hop magic act that he hopes will change the perception of magicians as “corny.” Me? I happen to love magic, in fact, I have a lifetime subscription to Poof Magazine.
Elliot rolls out to the pumpin’ beat of “Promiscuous,” but whereas I liked his act the first time, this time all he does is pull a bunch of birds out from thin air. My attention wanders, and I find myself more interested in the judges’ reactions: Brandy always looks stunned, bordering on angry, when she sees magic or something she can’t explain. Well, after a whole lotta birds, Elliot complete his act by transforming one of the birds into a hot chick in a cage. She comes out to grind with Elliot before confetti shoots down from the ceiling. What the heck?
The Hoff says he has a cockatoo at home and would like to know if Elliot could teach him that trick (which I guess is really handy now that he’s getting divorced); still, the Hoff doesn’t feel he’s good enough to compete for the mill, and gives him the X. Brandy, despite thinking Elliot’s “so cute,” agrees with the Hoff that he’s perhaps not up to the level of the other finalists, and X’s him, but adds, “But you’re sooo cute, and I’m single and you can take me out on a date.” Sexual harassment or nice consolation prize, you decide! Piers also X’s Elliot but does not offer to go out on a date with him (awww).
I’m (Not) with the Band
Gainesville, Florida’s Ten13Concept has no relation to “Ten Thirteen Productions” (creators of the best show ever, “The X-Files”) or even Ten 13 the Sammy Hagar album, but is named for the number of the apartment the band members lived in when they started their band. Headed by a two cute twin brothers, they seem like such nice fellows with a lot of heart. Too bad their original song, “From the Stereo,” uh…sucks. Yeah, sorry, these guys seem totally nice and cool and groovy but, um…wow, the song blows. It sucks and blows at the same time.
Brandy says it sounds like they were all playing a different song, and X’s them out with a sincere “sorry.” Piers is not apologetic, and says if this was a competition for “who could make the loudest, most irritating noise” they’d be ace, no check for you! I agree with Piers that they need to figure what kind of band they want to be—might I suggest old-school, Two Tone ska? I can see them playing that. The Hoff begrudgingly agrees with Piers, saying they need to get tighter, but he liked the hook. In fact, Hoffy likes it so much, he sings it, and shows an audience of 12 million people why he’s such a popular musician in Germany. He also shows an audience of 12 million people precisely why he’s not a popular musician here…because he too sucks and blows at the same time.
O.G.: Original Grandma
Kicking off the second hour is Vivian Smallwood, the Rappin’ Granny from Los Angeles. I’m actually surprised to hear she is 73 years old, because I thought she was younger, even despite her prim, wire-rimmed spectacles and fairy tale grandmother dress! Her origin story is this: her son, a DJ, drove her nuts with his hip hop music. One day she told him she could write a rap, and he just laughed. “Give me funky beat,” she ordered, “Just do it, boy!” The rest is history…She said, “I hope America gets behind me, and all my seniors, and everybody that likes to get down and get busy with granny, hit those digits and vote for me!” Forget about O.P.P, are you down with A.A.R.P.? Yeah, you know me—ouch, my sciatica!
“What time is it? Granny time,” she growls as she prowls onstage. Granny shows off her gift of gab with a hardcore rhyme that threatens misbehaving youngsters to get off crack and punks to step off or else suffer the wrath of Granny. “I oughta put you across my knee and put a spank in that—ASK me no questions…” she dovetails sneakily. She even completes her act by asking, “Can you move like Granny?” before busting out into a dance that has the entire crowd on their feet cheering. CUTEST GRANDMOTHER EVER!
You just can’t deny the Rappin’ Granny. “I kneel to the granny,” the Hoff says, paraphrasing one of her lyrics, before giving her a check. Brandy thinks she has a shot at winning it all, and checks her too. Piers said even if he wanted to criticize, he wouldn’t dare…but his opinion is that of all the acts they’ve seen, there hasn’t been anyone as entertaining as her. He gives her a hearty check. The Reeg asks Vivian what her kids thought of her rapping; she said at first the oldest ones hated it, afraid she would embarrass them. Now she says they are supportive, and every time they hear she’s going to be on TV now they ask, “What channel, Mama? What channel, Mama?” The audience goes nuts, and she blows kisses out to them. She vows to come back next time with an act that will “blow the top off the place.”
No, Not That Magician Named Burton from Vegas
That’s a tough act to follow, but Nathan Burton, the self proclaimed “comedy illusionist” gives it a go. He said that he is pulling new things out his magic bag, and specifically gunning for Piers, who called him a “one trick pony” last time he performed. Well, not only is Nathan Burton a comedy illusionist, he is a straight up PIMP! I mean that literally and figuratively, because accompanying him are a stable of sexy Vegas showgirls. As an empty platform rotates on the stage, Nathan yells to Piers that since he liked the girl last time, this time he brought him four—Tada! Oh yeah, Piers likes what he sees, four hot chicas in hot pink showgirl costumes (basically sparkly underwear).
Two more girls come out in yellow and black, caution-tape inspired outfits, and then perform some light S&M onstage—you know, the family friendly kind of bondage. They handcuff a struggling Nathan into a big metal contraption, then turn a crank that changes him into a lifesize paper poster of himself while live hands still wriggle at the top. The girls them roll the poster up, put it into a cannon which they shoot into the audience, then suddenly emerging from a cloud of confetti from behind the judges is Nathan Burton. All the judges jump, but Nathan nearly gives Brandy a heart attack by charging her from behind, while blowing a loud whistle.
Piers must have loved the girls, because he gives Nathan a warm handshake. The Hoff high-fives Nathan. Brandy, still freaking out, is given a consoling hug by Nathan. “That was awesome, really awesome,” the Hoff says, using his favorite word yet again, comparing Burton favorably to Siegfried & Roy and David Copperfield, then giving him a check. Brandy, still scared speechless, simply slaps her check button. Piers said that although he initially didn’t like Nathan, “You just did the most incredible thing I have ever seen. I don’t know where the hell you went, or how the hell you got up here, but you have raised the bar!” And with that, Nathan gets a third check.
Little Girl, Big Voice
Bianca Ryan is the 11 year old who wowed the crowd with her gigantic voice. She changed her hair, outfit, and shoes (well, actually, no shoes—she just comes out barefoot) per Piers’s advice—and actually I think she looks better for it. She comes out strong with Janis Joplin’s “Take Another Little Piece of my Heart,” and works the stage with the confidence of a seasoned performer. The judges, however, seemed to like her better the first time. Seems they preferred her channeling a black woman the first time, as opposed to channeling a white woman who also channeled black women when she sang.
Brandy says that it’s clear that Bianca was born to perform, however, she doesn’t like the song selection this week; still, Brandy gives her a check. The Hoff also prefers the song (“And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going”) from the first week, saying “You’re not Janis Joplin, you’re Bianca…be Bianca.” He says tonight was good but, “It’s not gonna get you through,” then checks her anyway. Piers is a little harsher, saying, “You nearly blew it tonight,” saying that type of song is not appropriate for her young voice. It’s “tempting” when you get lots of applause to come back with a bigger song, but when trying to hit the high notes, she starts to “squeak.” His advice is for her to go “softer” and not “scream everything.” He still believes she is one of the strongest competitors, though, and checks her. Bianca impresses me by not getting defensive, but thanking the judges and saying she’ll use the criticism to work on improving her act. Good girl!
Reeg, ever the troublemaker, asks Bianca if she thinks Piers can sing. She politely says she doesn’t know, but Reeg eggs everyone on. Brandy thinks not, but Piers insists he can, so Reeg challenges Piers to sing at least once before the competition is over this season. I smell future filler/time killer!
Great Balls of Fire
Remember Kenny Shelton, the juggler from Alpine, California, who dropped the ball his first time round, but got through anyway after answering Piers’s challenge? In an outfit that makes him look like a Chili’s waiter from the 1980s, and a face that makes him look like Alfred E. Neuman’s younger brother, Kenny sincerely hopes to redeem himself this time. This time, he’ll be tossing flaming balls in the air, and if he fails, at least he tried. Are you kidding me? If he fails, he could set the Hoff’s crotch on fire, if not the whole studio! What, me worry? Thank God, they have fire department representatives visibly waiting in the wings should something go wrong again.
Kenny, however, is the little juggler that could, and to the tune of “Tequila” (anyone else always think of PeeWee Herman when they hear this?) he juggles multiple flaming balls, flaming torches, and flaming—what the heck is that last prop, a menorah? Well, blessed be, he doesn’t drop a one! “Credit where credit is due,” Piers says with a check, “Not bad, well done.” Hoff was waiting for Kenny to drop something and the firefighters to put him out, but he made it through—another check! Brandy’s just glad he didn’t drop anything, and also gives a check—or actually, allows Piers to hit her check button. What is up with the judges’ touching each other’s buzzers? [last sentence creepy out of context]
The Harder They Fall
Sorry Chadwick, Gishelle, Marla & Michelle, and Billy…the last act tonight is Trey Knight’s Stilt World. Trey Knight, the visionary behind this motley company of six, was a world champion skater who took the physics of skating and decided to apply them to stilts. With their candy-colored hair and makeup, and tight, deconstructed, fetishistic costumes, they basically look like…really, really tall club kids.
Their act is a unique blend of dance, athleticism, and balance set to gay club music. One girl swirls two balls of fire around, while the rest of the troupe move and leap around with impossible grace on their crazy high stilts. It’s quite mesmerizing, ah but here is the tragic part. Right in the middle of the act, one of the dancers falls.
Like a narcoleptic giraffe, a beautiful blonde female, takes a painful-looking dive, a nasty fall that makes everyone cringe—and the hyper-reactive Brandy nearly falls herself, right out of her seat. While the rest of the troupe continues, one of her fellow dancers picks the blonde up off the floor without getting off his stilts, and she continues as best she can. Still, the fall is a heartbreaking moment that distracts from the rest of the performance, which includes Trey swinging from a big silver ring. The rest of the act is uncomfortable to watch, and even one of the firegirl’s balls goes out and never reignites.
The Hoff congratulates the pretty blonde for recovering from the fall, and gives Stilt World a check. Brandy says she appreciates what they’re doing, but says it’s “not her thing” and X’s them out. Piers likens stilt walking to juggling, saying that in order to advance now, they need to be absolutely perfect. He calls the fall a “real train wreck moment” and then X’s them out. Trey gives a long speech about the art of stilts (all the while moving, because I guess there’s no way to stand still in stilts) and says that it’s difficult to sit for three hours then have to get up to perform such a physical act. It’s not quite on the level of a Leonid Monologue, but it’s still an impassioned speech.
Unlike last week, the judges don’t torture us by making us wait for their decision. They reveal their pick for the final: in a unanimous decision, Rappin’ Granny will definitely go on to the finals! She breaks out in a gleeful happy dance as the audience goes wild.
But there’s still the matter of America’s vote…who will the viewers choose? Find out on Thursday’s results show, or read Roseskid’s rockin’ (and conveniently commercial and filler-free) recap.
At 5’2”, I could use some stilts myself…snowflakegirl@fansofrealitytv. com
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