Tuesday, June 09, 2015




Bill King
Contributing Writer, BuddyTV
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After the second audition episode of America's Got Talent produced what I consider to be three legitimate contenders, the 10th anniversary of summer's number one show continues with a new group of acts vying for the chance at a million bucks (which the disclaimer reminds us is payable in a financial annuity over 40 years) and a headline act in Las Vegas.

The judges come out to an audience participation rendition of Queen's "We Will Rock You," and I always wonder how many introductions they tape in each venue, seeing as how they jump from location to location each week.

Nick Cannon, still searching for that elusive Emmy, is rocking sparkly shoes with spikes on them, Mad Max-meets-Cinderella style. You don't have to think he's the best host, but you can't deny the style.

This is definitely the portion of the show where we're not necessarily looking for a potential winner, but it's about putting through anyone who earns it (and some who don't). I mean, you can't send adorable kids and the elderly packing just yet.

So will any of these acts challenge for the crown? Let's get to it.

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The Good

D.J. Smart is part of Freelusion Dance Company, which infuses video mapping with dance, and he kicks off the show by interacting with flashing and moving lights projected on a screen in front of him. He's ripped and scantily clad, and he spins around a tornado of dots, blows them out of the way, and an equally scantily-clad female dancer appears. They're amazing performers in amazing shape, and the beautiful and graceful presentation garners four yeses. They're a contender if they can vary up the routine in innovative ways.

Paul Zerdin is a ventriloquist, with a ventriloquist puppet, who likes to fool the sound check guy by moving his mouth and then having the words come out immediately after. The material is very good, not amazing, but he's great at what he does.

So we're two-for-two to start, but it's not like either of these guys are spring chickens. DJ Smart appeared on So You Think You Can Dance, while Zerdin has been featured three times since 1997 at the Royal Variety Performance after he was the first winner of The Big, Big Talent Show in London. So they're not necessarily undiscovered talent; they just haven't gotten that big break yet.

Next up is a montage of bizarre dance numbers that I can only assume are all going through, even though there are no votes. There's Caravan of Glam, a quartet of women and men who are dressed like women, including one dude who is 7-foot-1 doing jumping splits; three guys channeling their inner Kinky Boots by dancing around in red heels; and Vibez, who is one of those dancer guys who seemingly has no joints and grosses me out more than entertains me. None will win.

It all caps off with 96-year-old ballroom dancer Tao Porchon-Lynch and her 26-year-old partner Vard. She was a model in France in the 1930s before moving to Hollywood and becoming friends with Marilyn Monroe, and she met Vard in his Mambo class six years ago. They've been performing ever since, and it's a cute hook. It's equally amazing that she can move this well at that age, and I'm glad she is getting another moment in the spotlight, but it's certainly not a million-dollar act. Still, I applaud her, and there are apparently some rather risque moments that has AGT flashing to the audience and their shocked faces. The 70-year age gap alone is enough to put them through.

Alondra Santos is a shy and giggly 13-year-old Mariachi singer with a fantastic voice who gets a standing ovation. She'll probably end up being a professional Mariachi singer wherever professional Mariachi singers Mariachate. I don't think that place is Vegas, but time will tell.

Bearded lady Scott Heierman is up next, complete with full makeup, short pink dress and high sparkly heels. He's doing stand-up comedy, and while his jokes are about half as interesting as the "I'm fabulous" persona, they work well together, at least for now.

Michael John is a 26-year-old hottie magician who left a chance at playing professional baseball to follow his magical dreams, and he's like the better looking Mat Franco with a slightly more emotional backstory. But does his act match the hype? He calls Mel B. up on stage, has her sign a card that he folds into quarters, then puts the card into her mouth. He signs another card, folds it up and puts it in his own mouth, then makes it seem like he's going to kiss her before revealing that the cards have switch places.

He tells Mel to think of her first kiss and punch him in the chest, and afterwards, he pulls down his shirt to show that the dude's initials are suddenly carved into his chest. The tricks are good, but he needs to work on his energy and showmanship. Howie calls him "humble," but he needs to worry about that being construed as boring. There's potential, though, and he breaks down in tears when they put him through.

Then it's time for the dance montage, with a group of girl hip-hop dancers, a boy-girl clogging duo (who look like Michael Flatley Lord of the Dance) and the sexy Ken Project Magic Mike-type dancers.

The Los Angels Children's Orchestra is a giant kid orchestra whose band leader from LonGuyLand (the accent gives it away) needs a megaphone to herd them around. There's like 100 of them, ranging in age from 8 to 13, and they're obviously immensely talented. They work choreography and even some splits into the routine, which is a classical version of The Beatles. It's an intriguing act, but I don't know what they can do that's really any different from what they just did.

The members of Chicago's Ultimate Tumbler fly and flip around the stage, and I wonder if they come from the same people who brought us The Chicago Boyz a few years back. Very similar acts.

A capella group Pitch Slapped is straight out of Pitch Perfect, and the lead singer kind of looks like Ricki Lake.

Rhythmic Circus is half rock band, half dancers/cloggers, and it's both impressive and a lot to take in simultaneously. I don't know where to look, and I feel like I need a nap afterwards.

Leroy Patterson is a 32-year-old rotund pain junkie who gets his kicks jumping off roofs and moving cars into bushes and the like. He strips down, covers the stage in thumb tacks and then dives on top of them a bunch of times before punching and head-butting the pile. There's blood everywhere, and Howard cracks up throughout the entire performance, but I find myself groaning audibly as Mel, Howie and Howard put him through. For real? I had to cut and paste this paragraph out of the "bad" section. C'mon.

Vladimir and Vladimir are a knife-wielding hand-balancing strongman duo from Ukraine called Duo Vladimir (score one for ironic creativity), and one of them just had a daughter the previous day. The crazy jaw-dropping moment of the night comes when they each put a knife in their mouth and then balance knife tip to knife tip, hands-free. I'm legitimately in awe watching that, and I may have even dropped a "holy shit" or two.

In the pimp spot of this audition episode is Sharon Irving, a 29-year-old singer from Chicago who grew up performing in church. Her grandfather was a crusader of the civil rights movement, and she's channeling his strength to overcome her nerves and shyness to chase her dreams. Her rendition of Hozier's "Take Me to Church" is fine and certainly better than anything I could do, but I'm not blown away by it. Still, she gets a standing ovation and unabashed, overwhelming praise from the judges, prompting Mel B. to slam down on the Golden Buzzer and send Sharon directly through to the live shows. Okay.

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The Bad

Ellen and Terry are singers known as The Orchids who were once strangers, but then they met at karaoke and supposedly rocked the stage, making everyone assume they were best friends. They dance around horribly and trainwreck "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" before getting buzzed, then Nick joins them and helps them finish the song. And, yes, I used trainwreck as a verb.

The above-mentioned "good" dance montage ends with Algerian Ouahib Arkoub dancing around like I do at a wedding. But it's also very similar to Howie's best moves, so he joins the fun and they white-guy-dance each other off the stage.

The Best of the Best?

While I appreciate that they continue to focus on the quality acts, sparing us those who are buzzed unless they involve some fun judge interaction, I fear the "worst of the worst" audition episode that is likely looming. Still, this was another one filled with potential but lacking what I would consider an abundance of serious threats we can expect to be around at the end.

For me, Freelusion Dance Company, Michael John and Duo Vladimir are the likeliest to stick around the longest, but at this point, I can't put them in the same category as Freckled Sky or Derek Hughes. I do, however, greatly enjoy being proven wrong.

I have to ask, though, did I miss something with Sharon Irving? She was good, don't get me wrong, but was she that good? I did not get chills, and at this point, I'd consider her middle of the pack, at best, on a show like American Idol.

Which acts did you love, and are you happy they've been focusing less on the bad and more on the good? Also, were you surprised at anyone who was put through? You know, other than the thumb tack guy. The bloody, bloody thumb tack guy.


You can watch America's Got Talent every Tuesday at 8pm on NBC.


(Image and videos courtesy of NBC)


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