With NBC's recent primetime shakeup, isn't it comforting to know that some of your favorite programming – like, say, America's Got Talent, the show where average Joes can translate their ability to withstand multiple kicks to the groin into a potential $1 million check – is sticking around for the foreseeable future?
With new judge Howard Stern, as Rolling Stone's Rob Sheffield recently wrote, putting on a "brilliant" performance and having fun while doing so, the show has been elevated to new heights. If nothing else, Stern’s presence takes attention away from the fact that host Nick Cannon and the other two judges, Howie Mandel and Sharon Osbourne, are comparatively useless.
Regardless of your take on AGT, it's now week two of the audition process, and the judges are in New York City. There are two episodes this week, but unlike last week, each one is only an hour this go-round. Don't think we’re getting any less amazing, though. All this mean is there's less filler and more "talent." Let's break it down.
The Real Business
1. Jason Cordera, pianist: At no more than 13 years old (no official age was given), this piano prodigy, dressed like a newsie, made playing a complex Mozart piece look as simple as slamming out a rendition of "Chopsticks." It was a no-brainer that the judges would put him through to the next round. Osbourne said he reminded her of a "mad professor." We expect him to be a force to be reckoned with this season.
2. Olate Dogs, pet trick specialists: We never did get the name of the two men, one 19 and one 55, who train this gaggle of pooches. After the dogs were carted (rather inhumanely, we must admit) onto the stage, we were treated to one of the most incredible "pet trick" demonstrations we've ever seen. These dogs were insanely talented: backflips, rope-jumping, wheelbarrowing with one another. These pups did it all! Mandel called it "the best animal act" he's ever seen. "I don't know how you train those dogs?" animal-lover Osbourne said in sheer amazement. We’re with you, Sharon. And while it might be hard for the Olate dogs to top their audition, if they do, God help us all!
3. Wordspit, The Illest!, hip-hop band: When a crew from the "rough part of town" is able to channel the Roots, sneak in the chorus to Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight" and incorporate violin, all while a dude who goes by the name Wordspit gets the crowd psyched through whiplash-quick "backpack rap" rhymes, there's a good chance they're being put through to the next round. Thankfully, they advanced. Frankly, if these dudes tighten up their chops just a wee bit, this could be the beginning of something special.
Not So Much
1. Horse, balls of steel: This 20-something claimed he had a talent the judges had never seen before. Boy, was he was right. Wearing a shirt emblazoned with the words "They Call Me Nasty," Horse took the stage and made men across America collectively dry-heave. His talent? The man has balls of steel. Over the course of several minutes, Horse took countless shots to the nuts, with punishment coming courtesy of a wooden stack, his friend's shoe, and then, to top it off, a shattered cinder block. Oh yes, and Nick Cannon also kicked him three times in the balls. The judges put this literal numbnuts through to the next round, reminding us why we sometime question this show’s intellectual merits.
2. The Flyte Cru, trampoline dunk team: The problem with this group of high-flying trampoline dunkers, which included a far-too-smiley redhead, is not that they aren't skilled at their craft. In fact, they excelled during their audition while executing difficult backflips and mid-air passes before ultimately slamming the ball through the net. But as Mandel said, this was nothing new. Every NBA halftime show has a group like these dudes. Stern seemed to think they had something special, though, and Osbourne agreed. Which meant they advanced. How they can possibly change this routine enough to go further in the competition is beyond us.
3. The New York Irish Dance Company, dance troupe: Have you seen Riverdance? Have you seen Riverdance on acid? If you answered yes to either of these questions, you have an inherent interest in this group. Basically, they've taken the Riverdance craze that went out in the late Nineties and amped it up with masks and costumes and other sorts of trippy shenanigans. We're sure there are some dancers out there currently throwing things at their computer while reading this, but we just don't like to see people's heads held stiff while their legs flail wildly in unison. Sadly, we'll have to see more of it – they advanced to the next round.
The Bizarro Bunch
1. Burton Crane, entertainer: Technically we're breaking our own rule here – the Bizarro Bunch is usually reserved for those contestants who were so strange they never had a chance to begin with. Well, that's what we thought was the case with Burton Crane, a 77-year-old man wearing a white suit and top hat who claimed to be "the grandfather of rap." Crane unleashed a strange, polka-esque version of what sounded like the Cops theme song – the hook repeated "Whatcha gonna do? – yet somehow the judges and the audience were left bowing at the man’s altar. He advanced; we were shocked. Not only does Crane have no talent, he also seems rather creepy. The question isn't "Whatcha gonna do?" It's "Whatcha gonna do when Burton Crane tells you he has candy for you if you get in his car?"
2. Two Metal Rockers: When one of the judges is married to Ozzy Osbourne, you'd think no one would be stupid enough to play metal music on AGT unless it was absolutely killer. Furthermore, since Osbourne's husband is an Archbishop of Weird, two dudes couldn’t possibly think they'd be going anywhere by putting on KISS-meets-Insane Clown Posse face paint and playing sludge-metal riffs over gravel-y yelling. Could they?
3. Unnamed three-piece band: Stern said he wanted to see more bands. Three kids came out and – no joke – played 30 seconds of noise.
Last episode: The Voice Within