By Michael Slezak
Updated July 20, 2006 at 12:00 PM EDT
Brandy: Chris Haston

Mediocrity coats most of America’s Got Talent‘s two-hour running time like a light patina of kerosene on a pile of kindling; indeed, it always feels like the show is one flat note or botched punch line away from total self-immolation. So thank heavens for superfreaks like Leonid the Magnificent, clad in a fuchsia-feathered headdress and matching duster, dancing and twirling a giant cube-like object as if it were an actual skill, for bringing a bizarre Vegas-meets-community-pageant vibe to NBC’s oddest of summer reality hits. Seriously, I don’t know if I’d ever watch AGT during the regular TV season — I’m not even certain I’d tune in again next summer — but for now, folks like Leonid, professional snappist Bobby Badfingers, and disturbing lawn-mower act Mark the Knife keep me glued to my set. And while none of the above really deserve a spot in the finals, somehow, they make for better TV than more talented competitors like vocal quartet At Last, or acrobatic duo Realis. Perhaps it’s because the latter two performers are very good, but not truly great — certainly not worthy of a $1 million prize, in my mind. (Check ’em all out by clicking here.)

Oh, and speaking of good TV, how ’bout that Brandy (pictured), suddenly deciding to keep it real and slap sister act Sugar-N-Spice and barely clad teen trio N’Versity with her big red X? It had to sting, but really, I think the ”I Wanna Be Down” singer did these kids a favor, no? Anyhow, at least the latter act’s explanation that they got their blush-worthy name after praying for inspiration provides proof positive that God really does have a sense of humor. What did you think of AGT this week? And who do you want to see in the finals?

addCredit(“Brandy: Chris Haston”)