What's that, you say? America's Got Talent is on for two and a half hours Monday night? Why, you ask? I have no idea. You're probably thinking that in 150 minutes, they'll bang out a lot of those first 48 acts to pare down the total number, but you'd be wrong. Only 12 are hitting the stage tonight, with the show description saying, "The judges prepare for the season's first live show; outtakes and previously unseen footage; 12 of the top 48 acts perform." That means each act could get 11 minutes to perform, and there'd STILL be time left over.
So assuming you've got more important things to do than spend your entire Monday watching AGT (which is basically anything, including taking down your Christmas decorations. But let's be honest, you should've done that already. It's July, for god's sake), you're in luck. I'm watching so you don't have to.
Since this show is a ton of filler before the acts actually get on stage (and probably after, as well), I'll just cover the highlights of all the other crap before we hit you live from Newark!
Basically, we get a 10-minute recap of all the bad acts we saw during the auditions and all the times the judges were funny or Nick dressed up in a bikini and danced with a contestant. Then we get a nice little nugget, that a producer picked up Ron Christopher Porter, Jr., to do movie voiceovers. A success story from an AGT reject!
Then we get some behind the scenes judges action, and Howie says he's tweeting live from backstage during the pre-show. Howard pops a blackhead in Howie's ear with some tweezers ("Piers would never do this for me," he says), Sharon admits she creepily calls Ozzy "Daddy," and Nick Cannon freaks out a little before each of his location introductions (and also when the water-skiing squirrel crawls and pees on him).
Finally, we get a little recap of how some of the acts advanced to the live shows. Enough pre-show filler! On to the real show filler! (And the 12 performances!)
The First 12 Hit the Stage
Nick welcomes us live to the Newark Performing Arts Center with the Immaculata High School marching band and the Rutgers University cheerleading squad, and it's clear from all the shots of the New York skyline and the Statue of Liberty, the talk of the talent on Broadway and the always popular "If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere" catch phrase that many people think New York and New Jersey are the same state. But, hey, the Jets and Giants pull it off. And Sarah Palin can see Russia from her house, so she must have been governor of Moscow.
Mr. Mariah reminds us that the acts are competing for $1 million and a chance to headline an act in Vegas, then introduces us to the judges. Of course, Howard is last up and gets the loudest ovation. The first group of 12 quarterfinalists will perform, and America will vote only four -- count them, FOUR -- into the next round. The judges will have use of their Xs, but America can still vote for an act even if it gets buzzed.
Distinguished Men of Brass
The out-of-work marching band known as D-Mo Brass is up first. They came together after they all lost their amusement park jobs to chase their dreams. They bring a great energy, and their moves are pretty much in unison. They toss in a bit more dancing into the routine, and I think it lags a bit when they stop playing their instruments. But overall, it's a solid way to start things off.
Howie thinks they did a good job, but he doesn't think they took it far enough beyond a halftime show. Sharon says they "got it going on." Howard thinks they were great, but agrees with Howie that they need to aim higher. He believes they'll get through, but doesn't know if they can go further. Howie suggests some more solos.
The yarmulke-sporting 14-year-old pianist is up next. He did better in his Vegas performance than his audition, and Howard says his biggest weakness is his tendency to get high. A rare bit of unintentional humor from Howard Stern, ladies and gentlemen.
Edon is singing a song I don't know, but he sounds great. Unfortunately, he gets lost in the music a bit (and the fog machine), and some of the time I can't understand him. I think he's struggling to raise his voice above the background music without screaming.
Sharon says he hit every single note and was amazing. Howie makes a bar mitzvah joke and says, "Jew are terrific." Howard hates the fog machine, but he changes his earlier opinion that Edon was whiny in his warm-ups and now thinks he's great. He also loves his humility and the fact that he's not a Hollywood kid.
Jarrett and Raja
Magicians Jarrett and Raja (also a pianist) are our third act of the night, and they love to do tricks that mess with your mind. They performed in Vegas for a while, but they left because they felt like outsiders. Apparently, Jarrett sings, too, because he starts with a rendition of "Singing in the Rain." He strips down and showers before making several assistants appear, covered in towels, from between his legs. Then he secretly swaps places with the last assistant, while Raja appears in the shower.
The crowd boos them a bit, and Howard thinks the audience turned on them because they thought they could figure out the tricks. Sharon thinks it got cheesy once he started singing, though she says it got a little better. Howie disagrees with everyone and loved it. But apparently there were stage angles that revealed stuff to the audience that we couldn't see from home (probably when Raja walked to the back of the shower while the camera was zoomed in or something). I think they could be in trouble.
The 6-year-old tap dancing sensation will perform next, and her parents are wearing new (yet still horrible) "Lil Starr, Big Talent" T-shirts. I'll be honest, I've never been a fan of this girl. She just jumps around more than she taps. That being said, she does a lot more tapping tonight, but it's still not enough for me. The remix she dances to is choppy and rough on the ears. But still, seeing a 6-year-old perform in front of all those people with that smile and no nerves is impressive.
Howie calls her a BIG Starr and says whether or not she wins (meaning, she won't), she'll still be a success. Howard puts her in her place and says while she'll eventually grow into her star, he's not a fan and there are better acts than her. Wow. Sharon is hitting him in the leg the whole time he talks, signaling him to shut up. He's right, though. Nick and Sharon then overcompensate to spare Lil Starr's feelings, even though she's likely headed home. She could survive based on the cuteness factor, though, even though she shouldn't. It will just delay the inevitable.
Lots of people talk to their dogs, but Todd Oliver's talk back. Irving is a Boston terrier with a fake jaw, and Todd is a ventriloquist. Irving has a crush on Sharon, and then Todd is introducing another dog into the mix! Lucy joins the party, and the pooches chat with each other. Todd's jokes are just okay funny, but the dogs are freaking adorable (especially Irving).
Sharon loves the dogs and she loves the idea, but she thinks the material is weak. Howie agrees, calling it the most unique ventriloquism he's ever seen, but that the jokes missed. Howard offers some constructive criticism, saying he wants the dogs to be a little edgier. Make the jokes more current and topical and it'll be a home run, he says.
The American BMX Stunt Team
It's time for some danger, and the bicycle, in-line skates and scooter riding American BMX Stunt Team brings their act to Newark. They make excellent use of the confined stage, which is something I thought hurt them in their audition. They had a large off-stage area there, so it took away a bit of the danger angle. It starts out very entertaining, but there's no buildup or big finish, so after a while all the tricks just run together.
Howard says he loves them, but it's not his kind of act. He has high hopes, though, because they hold his attention. Sharon understands the danger and thinks they did great. Howie thinks the confined theater ramped up the danger and that they deserve to go on. It lost me, though, but whatever. We'll see what happens.
Nikki gave up on a promising journalism career in Australia, but she came to America to chase her dreams. She is taking a risk by singing without her guitar, and she thinks this is her moment to show what she has to offer. Her rendition of Coldplay's "The Scientist" gets off to a rough start, but then she settles into her unique voice to make the rest of the song enjoyable. She's definitely the best of all the female soloists and deserves to advance, but it doesn't pass the goosebump test for me.
Howie thinks she did wonderfully, but he wants her to be a star. He wants electricity, and she needs to do more. Howard says she did a nice job, but that she wasn't memorable. His problem was song choice, and she lost the wow factor. Sharon liked the song choice, but didn't like her performance, saying she lacked emotion for an emotional song.
The Scott Brothers
They're not twins, but these street dancers sure look like it. They don't do contortion tricks (they're in the 40's), but they know how to entertain a crowd. Howard thinks they get tiresome, so what will they bring to Newark? Well, they're entertaining and it's a great street act, but I don't know if anyone will pay money for it (outside of spare change in a hat). But it's hard not to like them.
Sharon's impressed and likes their originality, but she basically says they're not going through, even though she's hopeful. Howie says what they do is not original but how they do it is. He takes Sharon a step further and says he thinks they will be in the top four (but they won't). Howard flat out says they hit a home run, they're memorable and they should move on.
Teacher Michael Nejad plays music on strange objects. He couldn't afford instruments as a kid, so he started to create his own. Now, a trip to Home Depot is like a trip to Guitar Center. He's focused on originality, but Howard thinks there's a better chance Jesus returns to Earth than this guy moving on.
He starts off by playing a baseball bat flute and gets an immediate X from Howard. Then it's on to the shovel violin, and the crowd starts to turn on him. He gets an X from Howie when he plays the vacuum cleaner saxophone, and Sharon Xs him right when he finishes, just for good measure. I don't know why everyone hates on this guy so much, as he's a very talented museum. He's great on the violin, but Howard really hates him. He lays into him hard and tells him the act is horrible. (Then he adds that he's going to do the same to Ulysses and Big Barry, and I love Howard even more). We don't even get or need to hear from the other judges.
It's time for the dance group full of Puerto Rican pride. They advanced to Newark, even though one guy got kicked in the face in Vegas, but they were probably still the best dance troupe. No mistakes this time around, and their moves are impressive. It's not my type of act, but I think they probably have done enough to move on.
Howie thinks the choreography in the first two performances was better and that they didn't step it up enough. Howard thinks they're in trouble because they're predictable and all their performances are similar. Sharon tries to save them with praise, but it'll be tough to counter the Howard Effect. The group members are very humble and call the experience a dream come true, and they thank the judges for the opportunity, win or lose.
Shanice and Maurice Hayes
Father-daughter duo Maurice and Shanice struggled in Vegas, but the judges liked Shanice enough to put them through. They thought she would have a good solo act, and it would be better if she just brought her dad out for a song or two. This time, they're singing Faith Hill's "There You'll Be," and it's just not that good for me. She's got a late start, the harmonizing is off a lot and even Shanice misses a few notes. I actually think Maurice out-sang her this time around. The crowd, however, gives them a standing ovation, as does Howie.
Sharon calls it cheesy, but she loves cheese and thinks they nailed it. She says the notes and harmonies were both perfect and that we're going to be seeing them again and again and again. Howie thinks Shanice was a superstar from day one and that Maurice held her back, but this time he thinks Maurice pulled his own weight. Howard says they'll be back, but they need to turn down the Sonny and Cher routine. I don't think they're bad, but I really don't know if we're listening to the same act.
David Garibaldi and his CMYK's
David Garibaldi and his dance rock art team draw the last spot of the night, and they say they have some new tricks up their sleeve. Great song choice picking The Rolling Stones' "Paint It Black," which really gets the crowd rocking. They do their dancing and paint tossing, and I have no idea what the piece is supposed to be until they spin it around. On the other side is a perfect painting of Mick Jagger. Holy crap. Not only are they the most entertaining act of the night, but they also painted BACKWARDS. Rock on, David Garibaldi.
All three judges give them a standing ovation, and Howard is in love with them and says they're a lock. Howard also calls out Edon, the Scott Brothers and Shanice and Maurice as his favorites. At least we agree on one (maybe two). Sharon says the act is straight up rock and roll, and Howie agrees with Howard's picks before encouraging America to vote.
That's it, and the voting is open. David Garibaldi and his CMYK's easily stole the show, and I think they're the only guarantee to advance. The rest are up in the air, but since no one else really blew it out of the water, I think a lot of acts could sneak through. My picks include Edon, the 787 Crew and, call me crazy, Todd Oliver. I think America will give him a shot to see if he can improve his material with his adorable dogs.
Who are your favorites, and who do you think is moving on? Who stepped up, and who came up short? We'll find out Tuesday night in an appropriately timed hour-long show featuring will.i.am and Cirque du Soleil.