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'America's Got Talent' recap: Second semifinals, tough call

August 31, 2011 |  9:58 am

'America's Got Talent': Silhouettes perform

Tuesday night's "America's Got Talent" semifinals -- the second of two, in which 12 candidates vied for the five remaining slots in the top 10 -- may be the toughest show of the season to call: Who were the standouts? Which acts were just OK? And will America vote through old favorites who might have had a middling night or middle-of-the-packers who made a clutch-time sprint to the front?

That last question will be answered on Wednesday night's results show, of course. But here's how Tuesday's "AGT" action broke down:

Kinetic King: The King said he was hoping to spark "woo-hoos ringing out all across America" with his latest Rube Goldberg-esque chain reaction, which went off as planned, but even he seemed to have a hard time mustering enthusiasm. "Is it too late to run away?" he asked host Nick Cannon before setting in motion his faster, though somewhat diminished, dynamic creation. It's not clear if he was kidding then, or when he appeared to swoon once the last item had been toppled. The King, dubbed by Cannon "the most famous goggles in America," has gotten some deserved attention and perhaps a few dates out of the deal, but it's hard not to feel that his act (which has offered disappointment and redemption) may have now run its course. It may be time for him to pack up his popsicle sticks and go home.

Fatally Unique: This talented dance crew from Rockford, Ill., moves, as Sharon Osbourne pointed out, "with speed and precision." This may have been the group's best dance -- and also its least original. It felt awfully similar to the West Springfield Dance Team's horror-themed shtick, right down the zombie-esque hair and makeup. Will the group's lack of uniqueness prove fatal?



Landon Swank: The adorable magician from Alaska brought in his equally adorable dad to help him with a trick (a "real-live version of Russian roulette") that required the judges to blow up some boxes. The judges very much enjoyed their inclusion in the illusion, which was slickly presented and impressive enough.

Gymkana: Did Piers Morgan's mid-act buzz contribute to this act's downfall? We may never know. But though these college gymnasts started strong, with a fast-flying series of impressive flips anchored by a guy balancing precariously on a stack of chairs, they ultimately went down in flames -- literally. Cannon blamed Morgan's untimely buzz for unnerving them. I think he has a point.

Summerwind Skippers: Speaking of untimely buzzes, Morgan slapped these gifted jump-ropers from Boise, Idaho, with a big red X just as they were striking their final pose. He said it was because they'd made two mistakes. They may have, but their act (despite the fact that the apocalyptic theme again evoked West Springfield Dance Team) was strong and polished and fun to watch. (Osbourne noted that they know how to work an audience.) I'd be sad to see them go.



Snap Boogie: I would also be sad if this highly likable street dancer didn't continue in the competition: He's been a favorite of mine since the audition rounds. However, Tuesday's performance, which started slow and schmaltzy before breaking free, was probably his weakest showing so far. Will he get the chance to snap back?

Anna Graceman: This smiley-faced 11-year-old from Alaska showcased her rich, agile voice with a song by Motley Crue, stepping out in front of the piano to remind us just how small a person was behind those big notes. Remarkable.

Steven Retchless: Morgan's knee-jerk (or just jerky) disdain for this male pole dancer just makes me like Retchless even more. I admire the way he continually pushes himself and his act further (in this case, flanking himself with two talented female pole dancers and appearing to walk on air). His strength and grace, the beauty of his movements, are just riveting.



Smage Bros. Riding Shows: Let's hear it for Rad Grandma Smage! It really was family night on "AGT" Tuesday night; this motorcycle-stunt act brought out the whole multigenerational clan, then revved up the engines and leaped over them. Brave, scary, definitely death-defying -- it's hard to imagine a better motorcycle act. On the other hand, it may be better suited to an outdoor arena than a Las Vegas stage.

Professor Splash: He jumped from an even higher perch into somewhat more water, through a veneer of fire. He was fine, seemed pleased with himself, told us his act was "very entertaining." Personally, I've ceased to be entertained by him.

Landau Eugene Murphy Jr.: Is he a singer or a Sinatra impersonator? I suppose, at the end of the day, it doesn't really matter. The crooning car washer from West Virginia added some back-up dancers and a little jazz razzmatazz and turned in another fine take on a song made famous by Ol' Blue Eyes: "I've Got the World on a String," which he just might have.



Silhouettes: This Pilobolus-channeling dance group, comprised of kids of various ages, offered a rare stumble Tuesday night with a performance that lacked unity and cohesion -- or a discernable story line. The addition of props and video may have mucked up the concept, whatever it was. On the other hand, the underwhelming performance did underscore the group's earlier successes. I wouldn't mind seeing these kids get a shot at redemption.

So who will get through? Going into the semifinals, I would have pegged the Silhouettes, Landau Eugene Murphy Jr., Snap Boogie and Anna Graceman as definites to advance, with maybe Landon Swank as the fifth contender, but at this point I'm just not sure. Which five acts do you want to see round out the top 10?

RELATED:

'America's Got Talent' results: Who made the top 10?

'America's Got Talent' recap: The Semifinals start strong

'America's Got Talent' results: Which Wild Cards slid through?

'America's Got Talent' recap: Wild Card night offers redemption

-- Amy Reiter

Photo: Silhouettes. Credit: Lewis Jacobs / NBC

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