With The Voice now officially in NBC's rear view mirror for this season, last night the network of the peacock debuted its first episode of America's Got Talent, our nation's most bizarrely entertaining TV talent show. For those unacquainted with the show, here's the basic premise: people perform ANYTHING – and as you'll soon see, we mean literally anything – for the show's three judges (we'll get to those in a bit), desperately try not to make an ass of themselves, and hope their (oftentimes bizarre and/or outlandish) talent will move them one step closer to a $1 million cash prize at season's end.
So, about those judges. Two familiar faces are back for Season 7: shiny-top comedian Howie Mandel (that guy who made creepy remarks to models holding cards as the host of Deal or No Deal), Sharon Osbourne (foul-mouthed wife of Ozzy). And Piers Mor . . . Wait. Dude is gone; he replaced Larry King on CNN. So who is the third judge? Oh, stop it. You already know! Howwwwward!
Yes indeed, none other than the shock-jock himself, Howard Stern, is stepping in to round out the judging trio for AGT. And we'd be lying if we said we weren't beyond thrilled. The man is simply hilarious. To that end, throughout the entire audition round we'll be compiling some of Mr. Stern's greatest quotes at the end of each recap.
But before we get to that, it's time to break down the crop of contestants who appeared on last night's premiere episode. America's Got Talent headed to Los Angeles and St. Louis, and wouldn't you know it, the talent came out in droves. But we want to make things simple for you. So we've broken down the talent into three categories.
First, we've got the top-notch, keep-your-eye-on-these-folks contestants who made it through to the second round, to take place in Las Vegas. We're calling these "The Real Business." Then we've got those contestants who made it through to Vegas, but whose shtick we simply aren't buying. These folks are part of the group we like to call "Not So Much." And last, but certainly not least, there are those people who should just be ashamed of themselves. These are the rejects who defy human logic. This group is known as "The Bizarro Bunch."
Oh yes, and there was a John Stamos sighting.
The Real Business
1. Shania and Maurice, vocal duo: This father-daughter duo didn't blow us away. But that’s only because they were the last act to perform last night, and as reality TV competitions go, this almost always means you’re about to witness something special. The 18-year-old and her 62-year-old father didn’t disappoint; they slayed on a soul-stirring rendition of the Carole King classic "You've Got A Friend." Mandel proclaimed this to be "first big moment of Season 7." We may be going out on a limb here, but we firmly expect to see these two come the live shows.
2. William Close, multi-instrumentalist: This part-time teacher and full-time maker of oddball instruments wowed the judges by playing what he calls an "Earth Harp." Basically, it's a mega-harp with 3000-foot strings that, when played with some sort of odd gloves, makes majestic, orchestral-style aural delights. The middle-aged man was backed by a manic drummer who looked like the ADD kid in your third grade class. "I was mesmerized," Mandel said. So were we! This innovative musician isn't going anywhere anytime soon.
3. Light Wire Theater: Think Blue Man Group on acid. These glow-in-the-dark-outfit-donning dancers took the shape of dinosaurs, Venus Flytraps and other mesmerizing visual objects in an interpretative dance-meets-art display performance. Will they be able to top it going forward? Time will tell. But they've got the cool factor on their side.
4. Simply Sergio, opera singer: If you watched last night’s show, you might hate us for this pick. But the weirdly lovable singer, who did a kitschy rendition of "Girl from Impanema" before being giving a second chance and parting the vocal heavens with an operatic rendition of "God Bless America," touched our heart. Maybe it’s because of his weird wife? Perhaps it's because Stern hugged him and was subsequently doused with dude's forehead sweat? Whatever the case, we like us some Sergio.
5. Loyalty Dance Crew: This dance team from Tennessee has surefire talent; they executed a hip-hop-style syncopated dance routine with precision and grace last night. Without a doubt, there are some standouts in this dedicated crew who couldn't help but get emotional after being put through to Vegas. Will they capitalize on the opportunity and shine going forward? We're certainly pulling for them.
Not So Much
1. Alan Lavar, "freestyle" rapper: We’re still scratching our heads over this one. This twenty-something dude calls himself an MC and claimed to be dropping a freestyle rap for the judges. But wait? Didn't he know who the judges were ahead of time? Wasn't his rap completely generic and offered no proof that he didn't write the entire thing out beforehand? The judges, disregarding these obvious questions, put Lavar through to Vegas based on his mediocre-at-best rap skills. Cherish this while you've got it, poser.
2. Jorge Nunez and daughter Alexa, vocal duo: We get it: a 7-year-old- girl (and a fresh-mouthed one at that) singing with her dad is cute. Some might even say adorable, especially when the duo is singing Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros' "Home." But the daddy-daughter duo wasn’t very good. To that we say: stop appealing to the family viewership, judges, and give the real talent a chance.
3. Dog ventriloquist: We don't know the man's name. We don't know the dog's name. We don't need to know either name. The man put a mask on his dog and subjected the animal to some sort of awfulness. Someone please call Animal Welfare.
4. Girl who climbs and twists and turns on a massive sheet: That's really the best way to describe this acrobatic young girl, who had to be no more than 8 or 9 years of age. We never learned her name, but she made it through to Vegas nonetheless. This act is technically called Aerial Silk Acrobatics or Aerial Contortionism. But really, there are only so many silk sheets a little girl can climb on and twist and turn upon. Is there something we're missing here?
5. Ben Black, crossbow master: Don't get us wrong: crossbows are awesome. We want to know how to shoot one. And kudos to the innocent-looking young woman who was Black's guinea pig, holding up targets as he torpedoed razor-sharp arrows in her direction. But isn't crossbowing, or whatever this man's talent is, reserved for 4 a.m. time slots on ESPN, or the Outdoor Channel? This man isn't going places.
The Bizarro Bunch
1. Sanjula Vamana, guy who sticks needles in his face: There's a time and a place for gross-out acts, but a family show like ATG simply is not one of them. This Chicago-based, heavily tattooed man sticks needles in his face for a living (people actually pay to see this?!). Along with his wife, Redrum, and mustachioed friend, Pinkerton, Vamana actually managed to make us gag when he stuck a needle through his mouth cavity and into his neck. Why, we ask? Why.
2. Aoni Jackson, magician: Magic is fun. We once had a creepy magician at our fourth birthday. So we had high hopes for this fake-baked magician. But dear God: Jackson turned out to be a male stripper posing as a magician. Somehow, he did manage to make Mandel's ring disappear and reappear attached to his nipple. But sadly, that was the highlight. Chippendales and Copperfield just don't jive.
3. Kazoo Boys: Boys who played the kazoo. One, whom Stern dubbed "Howard Jr.," looked as if he stepped out from his permanent residence in a stuffed locker to blow himself some kazoo. Again, we want to reiterate that these boys played the kazoo.
4. Miss Les, a.k.a "The Bird Lady": We actually feel a bit bad putting her on this list because she actually had a halfway-decent singing voice. But that doesn't excuse the fact that she is a bird hoarder, and lets all 22 of her cockatoos defecate on her and eat out of her mouth. We kept hoping Miss Les would magically become the congenial Bird Lady from Home Alone 2. But alas, it was not to be.
5. Random dude who sang "Proud Mary" and dissed Stern: You don't come on AGT and diss Howard Stern. This shmuck not only disgraced a great song, but he also told a great man that he didn't respect his opinion. Enough ink for this clown.
Howard Stern's Quotes of the Day
"Did they die of embarrassment?" – Stern to a terrible singer who said his parents were dead
"Why did Piers Morgan give up this job?" – Stern, when a busty woman came on stage
"Marry a rich guy. Sharon did. It worked out fantastic for her." – Stern to the same busty woman
"Could we see death here? That's what we're looking for on America's Got Talent." – Stern to Ben Black, the crossbow guy
"God punished me with this face."
"You remind me why I don't like people" – Stern to Sanjula Vamana, the man who sticks himself with needles