The Susan Boyle phenomenon has had a predictable effect on the new season of America’s Got Talent. The don’t-judge-book-by-cover lesson we were supposed to take away from Boyle translates, over here, as a new politeness among judges Sharon Osbourne, David Hasselhoff, and Piers Morgan. And so instead of previous seasons’ mirthless attempts by the judges to insult the bad contestants, we were killed with kindness. “Thank you very much indeed,” said Osbourne over and over again in rejecting mediocre acts. Is this the same woman who co-hosted Fox’s abysmal Osbournes Reloaded in March with creepy vulgarity? Yes; polite Sharon and rude Sharon are two sides of an act, and neither is entertaining.
Neither was two hours of America’s Got Talent, for the most part. You know how this works: the cluelessly talent-free rub elbows with the freakish novelty acts (a guy who puts a metal hook through his nose and has it emerge through his mouth). And there are a couple of amusing acts. A dog that caught Frisbees with dexterity. A dance act called FootworKINGZ that was easily better than the winner of Britain’s Got Talent, Diversity. So was the dance group the Unexpected Step Team. So was… well, just about any American dance group that hit the stage last night. It’s not difficult to be better than Diversity.
Most of AGT was tedious. The judges’ “yes” votes, enabling an act to move on to competition in Las Vegas, were so random as to be irritating. Some schmo who wrote a tuneless, witless serenade to Hasselhoff got put through to the next round. A guy calling himself the “Rock and Roll President” did barely-passable impersonations of Barack Obama and James Brown and got three nods of approval. A married couple with ludicrous face-painting danced while picking each other up. Apparently the fact that she weighed 100 pounds and he weighed 240 was stunning miracle. “One of the most extraordinary things I’ve ever seen,” marvelled Morgan. (How did he keep a straight face?) “So elegant,” gushed Sharon. “It moved me,” said Hasselhoff. How extraordinarily, inelegantly un-moving, I thought.
Of course, the show had to pump up its own pseudo-Boyle moment. Last night it occurred near the very end, when the trio Voices of Glory sang “God Bless America.” Piers said, “God bless you three.” Sharon teared up. Hasselhoff said, “This is what the show is about.” The trio received a standing ovation. It was certainly well-sung. Good luck, Voices of Glory.
Did you watch? What did you think?