: We're in the home stretch on American Inventor
; the last leg of auditions in Tampa and Houston are coming to an end. After last episode's slim pickings, will the judges be able to find enough promising inventions to round out each city's finals? This episode is mecifully lighter on the totally wacky ideas, but even some of the reasonable ideas - delivered with heartfelt conviction - might not be good enough to make it.
Although - as promised in our overview - this episode of American Inventor seems to be dialing back the rather depressing parade of loony inventions, the producers can't help themselves, and have to start off with a doozy. A middle aged woman sporting a sparkly outfit says her invention will help to reduce stress. She then belts out a tune called "Love Test" which is about ways a woman can tell if a man is the guy for her. Is her invention the Test or the song or what? She says it's the song, that music is a stress-reliever and ergo her music can help people feel better. Maybe so, but the judges think maybe she's wandered into the wrong auditions and send her on her way.
A couple more unsuccessful inventions follow. One woman, Shirley Blount, has invented a musical, light-up potty-training toilet. When a child makes a "deposit" as she puts it, it lights up. When the child flushes, it lights up and plays a tune. Peter Jones appears dismayed at yet another toilet-related invention. It's a no. She's followed by a gentleman who has invented a nail groomer that appears to be a modified belt sander or some other large-ish piece of carpentry equipment. One sets one's nails in a shallow slot to be filed. It might be incredibly safe but it's just an absurdly large tool to do what an emery board can do. Another no.
Next up, though, is a man whose tool has a usefulness that's hard to debate. Marcus "Sandy" Wall is a retired Houston police officer, who worked on the SWAT team for much of his career. After seeing colleagues injured or killed while ramming down a door on a SWAT mission, he created a tool - the "Wallbanger" - that emits a small controlled blast to help quickly open a door while allowing the officers to remain outside the line of fire. He chokes up when describing the fatality of a friend, a tragedy he believes could have been avoided had this new tool been available. The judges are moved and decide to vote him through.
The next invention - if it works - could possibly be a threat to George Foreman's meat-centric small-appliance market domination. Inventor Bill Guess concedes that what he has is, essentially, a meat toaster. By spearing a steak on an internal thermometer between two heat sources, he guarantees a perfect doneness every time. He offers to make a steak for Peter, and says it will take ten minutes for a medium rare steak. Peter does get a perfectly done steak...after nearly forty minutes. Although his invention can make a good piece of meat, the failure of timing means he gets a no.
A couple, George and Denise Tucker, are next to present. They used to have a tea shop and they realized that most people had trouble properly brewing a cup of tea. Green tea, for example, would wind up bitter and astringent. So they created a modified basket for a coffee-maker called "EZT4U." It creates a perfect brew from loose-leaf tea through a regular coffee-maker. They patented it for every make and model of swing-out coffee-maker. The judges like the simple ingenuity of the idea, and the thoroughness of their preparation. They not only make it through - they get all four yeses.
There's another kitchen-related invention up next, with a passionate and driven inventor. A middle-aged man who has worked in institutional food service for over twenty years created a cake slicer that would create 54 perfect squares of cake from a standard institutional cake pan. He has sunk thousands of dollars into his invention, and he pleads with judges to see the merit. George and Sarah do, but Pat and Peter can't overcome the limitations of appealing only to the institutional kitchen or catering market. It's a no and it's a little heartbreaking to watch as the man is so very heartfelt in his determination to succeed and make something more of his life.
Another inventor who tugs on the heartstrings is a young deaf man who must rely on his mother for sign language interpreting. He wants to be independent, and so has envisioned a Blackberry-like tool that would rely on voice recognition software to translate into text spoken word. The deaf person could use that as an independent intrepretor, and then could type out their own text response. Sarah and George both say yes, but Pat and Peter are concerned that even $50,000 wouldn't be enough to develop a real prototype. George goes to bat for the young man, saying that they don't know if it would be enough. It very well could be enough, and maybe they should give him a shot. So Peter says yes, and the young man is thrilled to make it through to the next stage of American Inventor.
Now that all the auditions have been completed, it's time for the judges to pick the city winners. From Houston, there is the handheld interpreter for the deaf, the retired cop's "Wallbanger," and from last episode, the kitchen wrap holder from brothers Mike and Joe Miller. The judges debate the merits and strengths of each invention. Peter doesn't think the wrap holder is enough. The Wallbanger might not be mass-produced, and Pat and Peter still have their concerns about the actual creation of the handheld interpreter.
In Tampa, the finalist are it's the EZT4U from this episode, and Carlos Reid and his plastic block home idea and Furney Eubanks and his easy-maneuvering lawn mower from last episode. EZT4U seems to be a solid idea, although Peter wonders what about folks without a coffee-maker? Carlos Reid's idea could be a godsend, but without a prototype, who knows if it is even feasible? And Furney's idea is clever and useful, but Peter - in his usual role as wet blanket - doesn't think it would be a big-enough seller.
And now, for the winners. In Houston, it's brothers Joe and Mike Miller and their kitchen wrap holder. In Tampa, it's George and Denise Tucker and their EZT4U invention. Now each of the teams will, like the other city winners, have $50,000 to develop their idea to compete in the Los Angeles finals!
- Leslie Seaton, BuddyTV Staff Columnist
(Image courtesy of ABC)