Vegas Week on the seventh season of America’s Got Talent got off to an appalling start this past Monday. Before anybody had a second opportunity to wow the judging panel during the middle phase of the competition, three acts were immediately summoned to the stage on day one.
In a manner of seconds they were collectively informed that not only would they not be auditioning again, they wouldn’t be advancing to the live shows in New York, either.
Let’s put this into perspective. Imagine you’re one of these performers who made an immediate impression during your first audition. (Think the talented Iranian acrobats, The Bandbaz Brothers, as an example.)
As you do your thing in front of a live audience, the immediate reaction is unmistakably enthusiastic and uniformly supportive. When your 90 seconds are up, many of them chant, “Vegas! Vegas! Vegas!”, hoping at least two of the judges agree with the sentiment. Sure enough, the whole panel offers up nothing but positive feedback. Three yesses commence this supposedly life-changing experience.
So, feeling very confident, you pack your bags for Sin City, eagerly anticipating what’s next. But not long after you arrive, you’re informed that you’ve already been dropped from the show. In an instant, you spiral into a state of confusion and disbelief. An obvious question arises: if they didn’t think I was good enough to merit a second audition, why the fuck am I here?
That’s what happened to The Bandbaz Brothers along with two musical acts, soloist Charlie C. and the all-female band Ivy Rose Monday night. They were all completely misled by a phony talent competition that can’t be counted on to create actual superstars (Jackie Evancho, notwithstanding) out of both its winners and losers.
But the cruelty didn’t stop there. Consider the touching, friendly rivalry on Wednesday’s show between two street dancers. From the East Coast, there’s Stepz, the cool cat with the smooth, robotic moves and brown-eyed contact lenses, and from the west, there’s the singularly focused Turf, the sad, street kid with the freaky arm flexibility who you just want to hug.
Both guys already knew each other before getting to this stage of the show. Both were well aware of each other’s strengths. Both exhibited remarkable confidence in their abilities. Yet, in spite of that, they have a very friendly rivalry that’s never personal. Their mutual respect and kind support for each other made for some moving Television.
As the two-hour Wednesday show reached its end, there was only one spot, of the 48 up for grabs in the finals, left to take. Based on their two auditions, neither deserved to be cut. But in the end, only a tearful, extremely grateful Turf received the invite to New York. Despite being ousted, the classy Stepz said he would be rooting for him.
Before that we got reacquainted with Big Barry, the short 70-year-old who sings like Bob Dylan having a hernia. I’ll concede that Howie Mandel is right. He’s hilarious but I don’t believe he’s trying to be. Not once has the white-tuxedoed underdog claimed he’s a comedy singer. As he absolutely massacred New York, New York, a shamelessly transparent ploy to convince the judges to advance him to the live shows (he wasn’t the only act who did something similiar, unfortunately) and despite laughing hysterically at his terrible non-singing style, it was painfully obvious that he had already made it too far in the competition.
If Mandel hadn’t convinced Sharon Osbourne to vote him through, there’s no doubt in my mind that Stepz would’ve taken his spot instead. But “America’s Got Talent” and “common sense” are rarely found in the same sentence.
Which brings me to the kids. One of my big issues with AGT is the lack of age restrictions for underage performers. I don’t care how much talent any of them has, few of them are emotionally mature enough to handle the inevitable rejection (or overwhelming support, for that matter) they will receive either from the judges and/or the voting audience during the live phase. Consider what happened on Wednesday.
Lil Starr, the adorable 6-year-old tap dancer who did a very good job in her second audition, got the go-ahead to prepare for New York. She was ecstatic. Lil Babywockee, another cute 6-year-old dancer who clearly wasn’t as talented, didn’t. She was reduced to tears. (She wasn’t the only rejected kid to feel so emotionally crushed after being cut.) Why was either one allowed to try out in the first place? Neither are ready for the big time. (However, they would both benefit from acquiring a lot more experience over the next ten years out of the spotlight.) Besides, they deserve happy childhoods free of all this show business nonsense.
Now that we know the Top 48 heading into the nine weeks of New York live shows, once again AGT faces a credibility problem. As funny as longtime stand-up Tom Cotter is, as clever as mind reader Eric Dittelman is and as extraordinarily athletic as the husband-and-wife acrobats are, who still doesn’t think a singer is once again going to win this dopey, pointless contest?
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, June 28, 2012