After a marathon month of nation-spanning auditions, we're finally reaching the finish line: this is the last audition episode of the season, and it arrives just in time. The promos bill this episode as the best of the best, but, uh... it isn't. It's a totally standard evening of America's Got Talent
Recusals and Refusals
The first routine of the night is a trio of children who dress like a mariachi band and dance with machetes -- their youngest member, age three, uses butter knives. The act is heavier on cuteness and charm than wow factor, but it's enough to get them through to Vegas. They kick off a lightning round of passable acts, including a synchronized swim team, a twitchy comedian and manly aerial love duet, culminating in an almost kiss between Howard and Howie -- shame they don't have the balls of Whose Line's Colin Mochrie and Ryan Stiles.
Mel B. recuses herself from voting on the next act, as she worked with acrobat Timber Brown in Las Vegas. He hardly needed her support, however, as he quickly wins over the three other judges with an impressive series of gymnastic feats on a pole almost the size of the stage. He says that he's disappointed when asked about how he thinks he did, but he'll have plenty of opportunity to improve in Vegas.
The next act is a young singer-songwriter named Skilyr, who began writing songs after the passing of her father. She falls into the same category of young kids and veterans, where the story kind of upstages the act itself, but her voice is strong enough to justify her passage.
Howard Stern's personal gastrointestinal specialist is up next, leading to the evening's second recusal. The most amusing part of the act is the supreme providence that the man who gives Howard Stern colonoscopies is also a ventriloquist; his talking large intestine routine, however, doesn't live up to its high concept setup. Other notable rejects include a belching hula hooper and a poet specializing in erotica.
Best of the Just Okay
The next big act is a black country singer named Milton Patton. Having discovered country after a tough breakup, the 21-year-old sings a soft, smooth western ballad against a prerecorded backing track. The song is definitely good, but it's not exactly groundbreaking. The judges make much of the fact that his routine is "surprising", and Howie gives him one of his phony baloney "you are the most special beautiful angel ever sent to this most hallowed and inspirational place by God Almighty" shtick, but at least Milton's emotional reaction to the crowd's support is genuine and endearing.
The last act of the night is a buoyant Howard Stern super-fan in her sixties, performing a rousing albeit completely unlistenable rendition of "Hot Stuff" with Howard onstage. Ha.
That's a lackluster way to end a very long audition process, and I think it speaks to one of the ways in which America's Got Talent has lost its way: watching great performers is eternal, but watching belabored clips of reality show failure feels like a fad past its prime. I've never been more ready to see this field get narrowed to the actual top contenders, because the "best of the best" this was not.
(Image courtesy of NBC)