'America's Got Talent' recap: 'If you're gonna blunder,' go big
After only two of the 12 acts in the final "America's Got Talent" quarterfinals round had performed Tuesday night, host Nick Cannon rolled out an interesting superlative. We were watching, he said, "the most unpredictable show on television."
Whether unpredictability is a desirable feature, or whether "AGT" is the most unpredictable of all shows, is open to debate (feel free to have at it in the comments section), but this episode offered some support for Cannon's claim: It was hard to know, from moment to moment, and even from acts we'd seen perform twice before, just what was headed our way.
The Popsicle-stick chain-reaction genius who calls himself the Kinetic King, despite having repeatedly wowed us with his witty, whimsical Rube Goldberg-esque creations and having spent 36 hours (we were told more than once) on his knees personally laying each stick, flopped dramatically: For reasons that remained a mystery to the King himself, the sticks stuck.
"Oh my gosh, what a disaster," he observed in his trademark Minnesota twang. "Oh well … If you're gonna blunder, you gotta blunder big."
Then Zuma Zuma, a group of talented acrobats who have come all the way from somewhere in Africa to prove they are the most talented act in America, jumped from startling heights on poles, bringing at least two of the judges to their feet.
Juggler Charles Peachock played "Can-can-can you do the can-can" on a piano using tennis balls and ripped off his shirt, displaying abs that were also ripped. His impressive act elicited buzzes from two of the judges, neither of them, as Cannon pointed out, resident sourpuss Piers Morgan.
I've been meaning to say for a while how much I dislike the "X" factor on this show: It seems wrong to buzz an act seconds after it has begun, especially when a performer's concentration is absolutely essential. In a case like Peachock's, distraction could kill the act; in other cases – when a performer is dangling precariously from a perilously high perch, say -- it could perhaps kill the performer. It also, frankly, kills a lot of the fun for the audience. (Let us make up our own minds, at least until after the performance is over, please.)
On the plus side, even if you didn't agree with Sharon Osbourne and Howie Mandel's itchy-fingered buzzing and their assessment of Peachock's act, you might have admired the way Mandel dismissed the performance: "You took your shirt off and dropped your balls on the piano." (Tee-hee.)
In this round, enthusiastic dancer Sam B gained a sparkly gold jacket and some lady backup dancers (and followed Morgan's instructions to get a shirt that hid his ample belly), but, sadly, lost a bit of his charm –- if only through repetition. Singer Taylor Davis may have been in the right key, as Osbourne and Mandel insisted, but he also chose the wrong song.
Comedian Melissa Villasenor did a spot-on impression of actor Owen Wilson, but her impressions of dead celebrities like Michael Jackson and Judy Garland didn't feel very fresh. Magician Scott Alexander did what may have been the least impressive magic trick I have ever seen: making a gospel choir disappear by hiding them behind a curtain and distracting us while they ran out the back and around backstage to appear on -– um, I guess … gasp? –- a balcony on the side of the stage.
The dance troupe Fatally Unique –- those hard-luck kids from Rockford, Ill. -– overcame their creepy military costumes through sheer will and terrific choreography.
By contrast, it was the creative "Alice in Wonderland" costuming -– as well as the dramatic lights, music and set design -– that made Yellow Designs Stunt Team's BMX bike tricks surprisingly exciting, giving it the boost it needed to become one of the night's best acts.
Danger-courting Frank Miles cracked some funny jokes and then got down to the semi-serious business of having a jelly doughnut shot off his head with a crossbow. Except that the arrow missed the doughnut. Oh well. At least it also missed his head.
And finally, glow-in-the-dark dancers Team iLuminate lighted up the stage as the night's capper, bringing the crowd and all three judges to their feet. Mandel gushed that the act was "by far the best thing I have seen on this show" and said he thought Team iLuminate could take the whole thing. "Best act of the night, best act of the live shows, best new act in America," Morgan declared. And Osbourne weighed in that Team iLuminate was "world class" before telling Morgan to "shut up" when he tried to agree with her. (Oh, those pesky peevish judges.)
My top four picks? Zuma Zuma (even though it still irks me that they are not American and the show is presumably about finding homegrown U.S. talent), Yellow Designs Stunt Team and Team iLuminate, and then probably Fatally Unique, with a little glance back at Charles Peachock, who may have blown his chances, if his fate comes down to a judge's decision, by ticking off Osbourne and Mandel when he kissed up to Morgan. (Oh, those pesky peevish judges.)
Who do you like?
-- Amy Reiter