Tuesday, July 17, 2012
America's Got Talent - Third Quarterfinal
It's time for the third quarterfinals of America's Got Talent! Can you feel the passion, the excitement? I sure can! Oh, wait, that's indigestion. Well, let's see if this week is any less disappointing than last week was. Maybe Howard will actually wring Howie's neck this week. That might be kind of entertaining.
As Nick comes out, he warns us that for some of these acts it will be a night to remember. For others, it will be an epic fail. He was right. There were a couple of truly epic fails - moments when it all literally came crashing down - tonight, and I bet as they go to sleep they will curse Nick for predicting their disaster. There were also a couple of things that did not suck. I disagree that "judges do not come better than these three", although at least none of them have quit.
We begin with a terrific youth dance team, The Untouchables. Last week, the Lisa Clark Dancers gave us an adorable kid's dance recital. This week, a bunch of performers from Miami gave us a real professional dance routine, and it is just a coincidence that the average age of the group members is about thirteen. The choreography is difficult and precisely performed. They are sharp, in sync, energetic, and completely charming. If you did not look directly into their faces as they danced, you would not realize they were children. This group is my first pick to move on. I just hope their early placement does not hurt them. However, considering how weak some of their competition is, what they did may be quite enough.
Howard: The level that you're dancing at is inspiring.
Howie: Tonight, it seemed professional, so much more than a kid's dance recital.
Sharon: Your youth, your enthusiasm, your dedication to your craft, and it shows. Your choreography is always superb, the way you look, your presentation. I absolutely adore you.
Rock Star Juggler Mike Price - In an earlier round, Howard buzzed him for dropping a baton. Mike Price didn't get buzzed tonight, but about halfway through I realized he was trying stunts he wasn't really good enough to do. Mike Price cannot really juggle fire while riding on a unicycle. He posed a lot and juggled a little. He dropped a baton while it was on fire. He's lucky he didn't burn the stage, or himself. A fire continued to burn in the can during the critiques and alarmed Howie. They had to get a fire extinguisher out there.
Sharon: It didn't work for me. I wasn't convinced.
Howard: I don't think America's going to vote you through.
Howie: It was make it or break it. Tonight, you broke it.
Inspire the Fire does not inspire the audience, or me. They've already suffered unfortunate comparisons to Glee; this week, they actually sang a song that's been covered on Glee, "Firework" by Katy Perry. The singing was very ordinary, and the dancing was amateurish. I am quite certain one of the guys actually fell while performing a flip. If they had performed this poorly in their first audition, they would not have gone to Las Vegas. We just saw The Untouchables show us what is good. This is not going to cut it. .
Howie: I wasn't inspired tonight. Tonight it seemed like a really cheesy High School Musical.
Sharon: It was very, very cheesy. You lost your innocence.
Howard: The fire got put out.
Cristin Sandu - Sometimes we take the challenges faced by the Danger Acts on shows like this for granted. Usually they successfully finish their act and we critique them on how convincing it was. Today, Cristin did all the other Danger Acts a great service; he showed us that success at the stunts is not guaranteed. Footage from before the performance indicates that he expected to end his balancing act surrounded by a spectacular ring of fire. However, when he got on top of his rickety tower of pipes and platforms... he fell. His act was a complete disaster before the stunt was half done. Epic fail. Painful to watch. Howard buzzed him just on principle as Cristin slouched disconsolately around his ruined tower. He's going to have nightmares about this night for the rest of his life.
Howard: I'm glad to hear in that piece that you're studying medicine. You're going to be a great doctor.
Sharon: Please don't be too hard on yourself, because what you do is extremely dangerous. You should be proud that you got this far.
Howie: It didn't work out for you tonight. I feel terrible for you.
The last indicator of failure; the judges pity you and try to make you feel better. He looked like he was trying not to cry as Nick called out his phone number. Poor guy.
Commercial. Annoying AFLAC duck is annoying. I prefer my duck a l'orange.
Elusive is a dancer with hearing loss. He prances out and begins some pretty exciting break dance moves. He's up on the platforms, on his feet, dancing on his hands, throwing in some gymnastic floor exercise moves, and finally climbing a flight of stairs on his hands. I watch this and think...oh, I like this a lot better than I like Turf! He's actually dancing! It's musical! And he did not try once to dislocate his own shoulder! There's nothing creepy and grotesque about any of this! Of course, the Scott Brothers are still better, and so are The Untouchables, but...
Howie: I think you're going to do very well. I think you did great tonight. I think your competition is gonna be one word: Turf. That's gonna be the best dance-off in the history of television.
The folks from So You Think You Can Dance may argue with you on that one, Howie.
Sharon: Your moves - I have seen those moves before... Is this worth a million dollars?
Howard: It's been in my mind to tell you how much better you are than Turf because you're faster and stronger, except something went wrong tonight. You've got to do more.
Apparently, he needs to pull his shoulder out of his socket.
Jake Wesley Rogers is fifteen. He's a singer. There seem to be a lot of teenaged singers on the show this year. His shtick is being geeky and awkward. I think he actually begins pretty well. This acoustic version of "Toxic" is different, and it intrigues me, until he turns to his piano and begins to play. Then the god-awful sound mixing buries him alive and it sounds terrible. I am torn by the originality of the arrangement and all the bad notes I am hearing.
Howard: I didn't feel you connected with that song.
Howie: I don't like the arrangement of that song.
Sharon: The song, I didn't like. I think you have great, great potential.
All Wheel Sports have an interesting strategy. They are a frenetically busy act, with enough going on to fill a three ring circus. Yes, we have the bikes doing flips over the ramps, but we have dancers flipping over the heads of the people flinging them into the air, as well. We have people bouncing off of a platform, onto a trampoline and then back to the platform again. We have air jets blowing up dramatic steam. We have flashing lights. We have roller skaters. We have skateboards. It's impossible to take it all in. I also think we may have our second successful act of the night, since it was a dangerous act without a single mistake and we've been watching a lot of failure here.
Sharon: All Wheel Sports are the first group to actually combine it (Extreme Sports and dance) perfectly and bring it to us.
Howard: I don't know if people can follow the three ring circus atmosphere.
Howie: I just saw a headlining show in Las Vegas.
Wordspit and the Illest: What a bizarre name for a group. What is an Illest? Why do I want to vote for something that is the illest? And then they begin to perform this... mess. They call it an original song. I call it an ugly, cacophonous pile of tuneless noise that communicates absolutely nothing to me. There's none of the clever wordplay or even unbridled rage I hear from most competent rappers, and the singing is ugly. I can't understand a single word they are singing or rapping, and it's all just terrible. Maybe the sound mixing is a problem again.
Howie: Right now I think you just made the most disastrous choice you could have made, and that is doing an original song.
Sharon: At home, they can't feel the energy in this room. I think you made a very bad mistake by doing an original song.
Howard: I got to hear what you guys have for real. You're one of the tightest bands I've ever heard on a television go. Thank God for originality.
It's got to be the sound mixing. I clearly did not hear what they heard in that auditorium.
Jacob Williams is nerdy, awkward, shy, and funny. He looks terrified as he examines the stage he'll be performing on. He looks terrified as he begins to talk about his mother. He looks terrified as he cracks solid joke after solid joke and I realize that this nervous, awkward fear is the character he's playing and it's oddly effective. By the time he starts to riff about why he can't throw up in a human baby's mouth, I am chuckling and pleased that he's not going to bomb. He's beginning to master self-deprecating humor and every geek in the audience looking for a hero in this contest is going to pick up the phone and vote for him. Then they will ask if he wants to play some D&D.
Sharon: You're very awkward, but I like you. I think your material was OK, not brilliant. (Somebody from the audience yells "Best act of the night!")
Howard: Your likability is off the charts. I could see you as a guy who's going to have a huge career.
Howie: I agree with that guy. You are the best act of the night!
Jacob stares at him like he doesn't quite know how to react to that. He appears to be absolutely overwhelmed by the strength of the approval he's getting. I think this may be our third successful act of the evening. My biggest concern... has he burned through all his best material now? Tom Cotter's been at this since before Jacob was born.
All Beef Patty is a drag queen. Actually, I think she's kind of a drag, myself. I've seen more convincing shemales in local gay bars. She's garish, mannish, and extremely dull on stage, standing almost stock still as a troupe of shirtless hunks dance all around her. I am not even convinced, watching this, that Jason, the guy playing Patty, is attracted to any of these hunks surrounding him. (It is not important whether or not Jason is actually gay or not. If he's not, he needs to be a better actor.) Despite the outrageous hair, makeup and clothes, I do not get a strong sense of character. I don't know who Patty is supposed to be, what her attitudes are, or what statement she's trying to make about sexuality, individuality, musicality - anything. She doesn't flirt with the dancers, which I think would be almost a must for this kind of act, she doesn't engage the judges or the audience. It's... boring. A boring drag act. Not good. All she does is make me miss the divine Prince Poppycock.
Howard: I think tonight we proved that she's not a big Vegas act.
Howie: You didn't move and you didn't use the stage.
Sharon: I think you look like a chunky Cher, and I think you sound like Cher.
Sharon, next time Cher sees you, she's going to kick your butt.
Spencer Horsman is the youngest escape artist in the world. What he does is extremely dangerous. Potentially fatal. He will remind us of this as often as necessary. He's wearing a steel straight jacket. He's going to be locked inside a bank security bag which is being suspended over some really deadly looking, very long spikes. He's got 45 seconds to escape from this straight-jacket/bank bag combo of death. If he fails, he's going to drop fifteen feet and turn into a Spencer-kabob.
They lock him in the straight-jacket. They lock him in the bag. They put him in his cage behind a screen and the cage begins to rise as the clock begins to tick... and I instantly see the fatal problem with Spencer's trick. He may indeed be performing an act of great skill releasing himself from this straight jacket, but the way he's got the trick set up, we can't see him do his amazing trick. We can only see the shadow of the bank bag from behind the screen, wiggling rather fervently. He's like a claustrophobic ghost jumping around. As the clock ticks down, because we can't tell how well he's progressing, it actually gets tedious as we wait for something to happen. At thirteen seconds to go, there's a little explosion, sparks fly up, the bottom drops out of the cage, and something falls to the spikes. I think we are supposed to be afraid that it's Spencer. It's actually the straight jacket. Somebody begins to boo, and Spencer reveals himself, safely out of the straight jacket and the bag. Great escape, kid. I wish we'd gotten to see it.
Sharon: I think it was a bit boring.
Howard: Usually you are so great because you show us something where we can see you escaping. Tonight we couldn't see you. It failed.
Howie: I didn't get what was happening. It was confusing.
Lightwire Theater brings a whole new set of illuminated life-sized puppets to create the best act of the evening. A huge blue bird is attracted to whisps of purple light in the dark sky. The purple whisps turn into a flamingo-like bird. A blue flamingo-like dinosaur replaces the purple figure. Then there are two. Then we see the original bird again, surprised by several other odd creatures it encounters. As they go along, the animals we see become more and more fantastical and mesmerizing. They end up all dancing together, and the crowd is on their feet.
Howie: Cannot even be heard over the enthusiastic screaming in the auditorium. He's bellowing very happily about something. Finally I hear him: "You're going to the finals!"
Sharon: I will see you in the Final.
Howard: That's a big stage show. That's a million dollar act.
Yep. They are moving on, for sure. This night of America's Got Talent had a wonderful start and a spectacular ending, and a lot of meh in the middle.