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'America's Got Talent' recap: These colors don't run

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We’re out of the woods, guys! Five weeks and 10 episodes after America’s Got Talent began, we’ve finally come to the end of the first round of auditions. It’s been a whirlwind tour of the United States and its many…colorful inhabitants, ranging in ages and talent and sanity. Somehow we all live under the same flag!

And never was that flag flown more prominently than during last night’s episode, featuring a red, white, and blue color scheme powerful enough to induce a seizure. Patriotism! A predicted economic upswing! If the judges are to believed, these are both intrinsically linked to the talent of our performers. Did last night’s crop help save our wayward nation?

I mean, DUH. After a wonderfully G.O.B. Bluth-ian introduction (“Where once there was a yacht, now – there is NOT!”), the final audition round got underway with Breaksk8, a group of roller-skating/break-dancing performers from Indiana. Though their routine felt like a lot of the same “Now we’re up! Now we’re down!” moves (mostly limited to center stage), the group’s choreography was great and highlighted their timing and cohesiveness. “Are you good enough to put through?” asked David Hasselhoff as we scratched our collective head, wondering if he had forgotten the many, MANY average acts to which he had previously given his Baywatch blessing. I still find it ridiculous the way each act seems to be judged according to a different set of criteria.Here’s hoping The Hoff, Sharon, and Piers had some sort of standards review before they flew to Vegas — if this show’s judging is to maintain any level of credibility, they need to settle on less than 15 definitions of “talent.” (Am I right or am I right? I am right.)

The roller-skaters were followed by an a capella rock group…then a bunch of pretty girls…then a guy playing the piano…then ANOTHER break-dancing crew. A speedy “yes” montage, making our heads explode with the sheer volume of validation. AGT‘s editors have one of the most tedious jobs on television — making anticlimactic auditions feel fresh and dramatic — but I wonder sometimes if they’re not totally phoning it in, setting their Final Cut software to “feel-good montage” as they take an hour-long In-N-Out break. That I’m thinking about the editors at all is probably a pretty good sign the answer’s “yes.”

But more talent tonight! After telling the judges that she’d use the million dollar prize to buy her family a new house, eight-year-old Ciana came one step closer to that goal with a lovely rendition of “At Last”. I admit that when she took the mic, I rolled my eyes — kids on this show are always something of a mixed bag, and generally given a free pass for sheer dint of their being…well, kids. Ciana cut the crap, though, and delivered her song with a grace and talent that far outran her years. This was no mere gimmick — the girl could legitimately sing, and the judges noticed. Get it girl!

Of course (again), this show ebbs and flows like the tide… After Ciana’s great performance, we were treated to a new batch of “really?”s in a variety of ill-conceived disciplines. Jo-Jo, a choir director, sang “Over the Rainbow” with the pitch (if not the presence) of Tiny Tim, leaving even Nick Cannon speechless. The poor guy spoke of his “God-given gift” as something that would “leave the judges with no other choice…but to pick me.” Talk about your all-time backfires! More “no”s after Jo-Jo left the stage: 1) Brian and Anthony Lockard performing a “piano show” 2) Inara Darko, another glass-breaking singer 3) “Comedy Circus,” which featured a man in full lizard regalia and 4) a physics professor sticking straws (ten of them!) into a potato with great enthusiasm. As of next week, these people are no longer anyone’s concern! High-five!

The night’s final performance came courtesy of the Beale Street Flippers, a group of acrobatic street performers. Jumping and flipping to “Billie Jean,” these exceedingly athletic guys immediately got everyone’s attention. The way they moved…ran counter to my (admittedly weak) understanding of physics. The judges loved it. Said Sharon, “you’re raw, you’re young, you’re fabulous.” Even The Hoff, notorious for tuning out anyone without an XX chromosome, was visibly awed. With a talent like theirs, I hope these guys go far. (Especially considering the activity they claim they’d be doing otherwise: “if it weren’t for the Beale Street Flippers, I’d be stealing,” said one of the members. …Cool? Honesty is a virtue?)

As analyzed by Ken Tucker with more exquisite prose than I could hope to achieve, a Susan Boyle interview dominated the last fifteen minutes of airtime. A little awkward…a little off…but isn’t that the point? “Awkward” and “off” are the two things that make her most endearing (well, plus her talent); if not for them, we wouldn’t be devoting so much time to the Scottish singer. (Nearly 10 minutes! It speaks volumes that a show called America’s Got Talent would devote a quarter of its airtime to someone across the pond.)

So that’s that, guys. Wave goodbye to those silly audition rounds (goodbye weird clown people! Goodbye impressionists!) as we put the top down on this car we call “the recap” and blaze a dusty, caution-be-damned trail to Sin City. See you at the Keno board!

Also:
Read Ken Tucker’s take on AGT‘s Susan Boyle segment