Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Bill King
Contributing Writer, BuddyTV
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After the most extreme auditions in America's Got Talent history, the judges and audience are headed back inside for some good old-fashioned on-stage performances. And while it will be interesting to see how they integrate the base jumping, school bus exploding and flyboarding (will Damone Rippy have to do it on the Hudson River? Gross) into a night of clogging and magic, that's a discussion for a different day.

We're still in the "impress me" phase of the competition, where a million-dollar act you need not be. Just show me you deserve a shot to be judged, and I shall judge ye in the future. Unless you're terrible. Then you get judged now!

Heidi Klum is very upset that she is the only judge yet to caress the magical golden buzzer, particularly because Howard Stern, the only American-born member of the panel, stole the act she wanted to send straight through to the live shows.

But not to worry. Methinks she'll get her chance soon enough. On to the acts!

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The Good

First to hit the stage are 12-year-old Zach and his 9-year-old brother Cameron, and they are personable and bespectacled youngsters better known as The Gentlemen. They mix hip-hop with break dancing, and it's fun and fine. The unison is not very crisp, but they're cute, Mel B. raves, Howard dubs them contenders and they're going through.

Oz Pearlman transitioned from a career on Wall Street to life as a mentalist, and he has Heidi pick a number (57) and Mel B. name a vacation destination and travel companion (Geri in Fiji) and then correctly guesses them both. He's got some jokes tossed in and the answers in a stapled envelope in his jacket pocket, and it's the kind of magic that really leaves you at a loss as to how it's done.

After an acrobatic ballerina wows the judges, small-town Alabama Marine-wife Britney Allen attempts to overcome nerves and stage fright with a throaty rendition of The Calling's "Wherever You Will Go." But she messes up her keyboard playing, stops mid-song and starts to walk off-stage, embarrassed. The judges give her a second chance, which she basically nails other than some timing issues at the end. She gets three yeses, with Howard saying her piano skills aren't up to snuff and that she's not ready. She has a lot to work on, and we'll see if she's up to the task.

A group called Evoke Tap Movement that shockingly "wants to bring tap back" is made up of two guys and a bunch of girls, and they do their thing. It's no Riverdance, but they get another shot.

The members of Animation Crew, yet another group hoping to follow in Kenichi Ebina's dancesteps, emerge from wall cutouts and dance like robots in what the judges describe as a piece of art come to life.

Metalachi merges '80s hair band with -- you guessed it -- Mariachi for a cover of Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It." It's not my thing but, man, those pants are tight.

Next up is a montage of a kid dancer who battles Nick Cannon, a young guy and girl who do acrobatics on a unicycle and a flippy, dance-y Dance Moms kid, and they're all going through.

At the end of the rapid-fire successes is 11-year-old Arielle Baril, who hails from my proud birthplace of Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania. She belts out a ridiculous opera voice way more advanced than her age, and Heidi loves it so much that she slams down on the golden buzzer and sends young Arielle straight through to the live shows. It's an ambitious move for such an unseasoned talent, but props and love to the hometown girl.

The Wild

It's a montage of various animal acts, starting with Einstein the talking parrot, who makes laser and robot noises and may have advanced, but we don't see the verdict.

Rascal is straight out of the World's Ugliest Dog competition, and his striptease gets four X's.

Tootsie the hyperactive tortoise pees in the waiting room and then ceases to amaze on stage after refusing to make a move for a strawberry.

Byrdie Sue the whistling pool cleaner finishes off the segment with her disturbingly-realistic bird noises, "sings" to Bobby McFerrin's "Don't Worry, Be Happy." She flaps and taps, and the audience claps, but it's all no's save for Howard, who appreciates her unique abilities.

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The Elders

First up is an old guy named Crazy George, who calls himself a professional cheerleader and claims to have invented the wave. Buzz.

Then there's a group of women from tiny Lake City who are dressed half in red, half in white, and do basic tap moves that mimic when you lean against a wall and put one leg on either side of a mirror to make it look like you're not touching the ground. Buzzzzzz.

The 75-year-old Powerlifting Granny has no trouble jerking a buck-85, and there has to be at least one good one in the bunch, right? Law of averages?

Shel Higgens, a.k.a. The Grandpa Show, might not be great, per say, but he's damn near out of his mind. He sparks up the ol' chainsaw, lays it on the ground and handstand-walks over it before putting an apple in his mouth and a blindfold over his eyes and chainsawing through it just inches from his sniffer. Somehow, Mel B. doesn't get the danger, but we'll soon find out if he's the first guy to chainsaw through a limb on live TV. Cue the eight-second delay.

The Bizarrely Talented

Olexi the Ukrainian hand balancer needed a partner but couldn't find an adequate one, so he settled on a headless mannequin wearing his wife's wedding dress. He rips off his shirt and climbs all over his love dummy to Berlin's "Take My Breath Away," and it's either weird or brilliant. Or both. I'm not sure if he's trying to be hilarious or not, but it's certainly a different take on what is generally a standard AGT strongman routine. There's potential, and he'll be revealed as either a genius or strange. Or both.

Alex Boye -- from Salt Lake City, Nigeria or London (take your pick) -- and his band sprinkle an African flavor on Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off," and Howie dubs it his favorite music act ever. The band comes complete with tubas and an electric keyboard-guitar solo. And you can never go wrong with an electric keyboard-guitar solo. Alex breaks down in tears at the praise, as this moment is all he's ever wanted.

The Painful

Aguy apparently called Mr. Fudge feeds a circus balloon up his buddy's nose (or is his friend Mr. Fudge?), pulling the other end out his mouth before they blow up both ends and make a doggie. They then pop it and pull it out, while the dude tries not to bleed or spit. Howard manages to convince two other judges that we need to see what these guys are going to do next, so it's a yes.

Semeneya is a Latin dance studio based in San Antonio who do Salsa with cool spins, tricks and lifts, and the foursome get off to a rollicking start before one dude blows out his knee. While he heads to the hospital, the group decides that one couple will perform in place of the group, and they dazzle with their speedy and well-timed kicks and moves. They're amazing, but the most painful part is that the super hot partner of the injured dancer doesn't get to move on.

Juggling Vegas taxi drivers Danny and Syum and their giant personalities close out the show, and they're just getting started tossing bowling pins and bouncing balls when three judges slam their buzzers and blow Danny's concentration. He drops the pins and quickly transitions to dancing a la Jennifer Grey during her awkward post-lift-fail Dirty Dancing thumb move, and balancing his hat on his nose. Heidi calls the act a hot mess, and the judges close out the night with an on-stage group dance number.

Okay Then

And that's it for yet another round of AGT auditions, and I have to say, I don't see any locks for the finals in this bunch. There's potential with the hand balancer, the mentalist and the African band, but I fear the young opera singer will falter like so many do after initially impressing. But, of course, I'm pulling for her. I mean, she could be living in my old house right now!

Do you see any of the featured acts making a run? Who were your favorites, and were you surprised at anyone who made it through? How do you foresee the giant, extreme danger acts meshing with more traditional ones? Will they be judged on equal ground, or is it more for show, at least at this point?

I'm not sure how many audition shows are left before the all-important Judgment Week, but the AGT train rolls on as we continue to search for that million-dollar needle in a giant pile of needles. Until next time...

America's Got Talent airs Tuesdays at 8pm on NBC.

(Image and videos courtesy of NBC)