Friday, May 18, 2012

It's Baaa-aack!

Nick Cannon, Howard Stern, Sharon Osbourne and Howie Mandel

When NBC announced that Howard Stern was going to replace Piers Morgan as a judge on "America's Got Talent," I nearly gave up on the one 'reality' show I do watch. Now in it's 7th season, AGT has brought us some amazing performers over the years, despite the seemingly revolving door of hosts (Regis Philbin, Jerry Springer and Nick Cannon) and judges (David Hasselhoff, Sharon Osbourne, Piers Morgan, Howie Mandel and now Stern). 

Back in the '80's, when I listened to Stern's local New York broadcasts on FM radio, I often found him amusing. As he grew and went national, I started to find him rude and obnoxious. I never thought "Bababooie" was funny and thought Robin Quivers was little more than a "Yes Woman." By the time Stern moved on to satellite radio, I was completely over him. I was actually sort of angry that NBC thought he could succeed the sophisticated Morgan, who was often the only voice of reason among the show's judges, even if he was perceived as the 'mean' judge. Morgan's critiques, while sometimes harsh, were usually right.

So it was with trepidation that I finally watched the first four hours of auditions last night and tonight and I have to admit that I was wrong about Stern. Oh, he's still a pompous ass, but so far he has managed to be kind and compassionate judge, doling out his opinions without being cruel or derogatory (unlike Morgan, who was often downright mean to the hopeful wannabes). He even gave a second chance to one contestant, who (on his second attempt) proved to be an excellent operatic singer. I'm glad I continued to watch and even happier that Stern managed to change my mind about his ability to be subjective. 

It's also nice to see young Nick Cannon come into his own as the show's host. Personable, funny and adorable, Mr. Mariah Carey continues to prove himself a likeable host who can empathize with the contestants and their families while maintaining the often huge live audiences at the show's various audition venues. After over coming a bout with Lupus, Cannon is still professional, energetic and just silly enough to be likeable.

All that having been said, in the first four hours of auditions, only one act among those sent through to Vegas so far has caught my attention as a potential winner. There has yet to be a Barbara Padilla; Prince Poppycock; Jackie Evancho or Landau Murphy this season. But it's very early and there are many acts yet to be seen.

The one performer who did grab my attention, street dancer/contortionist Alonzo Jones (AKA 'Turf') has great potential. The opening moves at his audition were amazing and it appeared as though he was actually floating across the stage. The control and coordination required to make that happen are the result of the formerly homeless dancer's untiring dedication to his craft and he supplied the first real "Wow!" moment of the season so far:

Other highlights for me:

Speed-painter David Garibaldi and his CMYK dancers:

Father/Daughter team Maurice and Shanice Hayes:

Instrument designer William Close:

and Light Wire Theatre, who managed to take an act we've seen on AGT twice before and elevate it to another level:

Of course, there have already been some truly dreadful acts:

Personally, I'm still waiting for an act that both excites and inspires me as much as 2010 contestant Prince Poppycock:

I can't wait to see what the rest of this season's AGT has to bring us. It's vaudeville, burlesque, variety and theatre all rolled up into one insane and very entertaining show. If you aren't watching AGT, you are missing out on the summer's single most entertaining program. Whether it's a train wreck or a potential million-dollar act, AGT never fails to provide something to talk about at the water cooler.

More, anon.

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