And so America’s Got Talent begins again! It wouldn’t be summer without America’s Got Talent, and I’m not sure what it will be without Piers Morgan. Probably better, despite that terrible ad with the three judges and Nick in the car “attracting” talent. Ugh, what is that about. Will we get confused with a Howie and a Howard? Will the audience know whose name they’re supposed to chant? Will Howie finally give up that annoying, little brother prankster bit he has worked so hard to craft over the years? Only time will tell.

With Howard Stern as the new judge, I was hoping there would be a little less bullsh*tting, less “this is what makes this show so great,” “the level of talent on this show is unbelievable,” etc. But it looks like he’s being paid enough to say all those things anyway. And it also looks like all the judge and Nick Cannon on-stage hijinks and the mocking attitude will continue on as well. But maybe lots of people will fall down and risk death. That’s all we can hope for!

First thing’s first: the focus on “shock jock” Howard Stern as the new judge. He’s cocky and judgmental and promises that feelings WILL be hurt. But Sharon tells us Howard has no idea what he’s in for! A lot of long, boring, relentless days watching Nick Cannon try to keep things interesting, that’s what. The first thing we notice about Howard is that he is ominously tall. I hope Howie is intimidated, and I hope that he and Howard are not friends.

The first audition we are treated to is the very tan/orange, gelled magician, Aoni Jackson. Aoni (ugh) brings Nick out to lend a wedding ring, but Mariah is not having that sh*t, so Howie takes his ring off. Aoni and Howie establish a rapport, he hides the ring, and Howard gives him an X and an X on Howie’s behalf. Aoni runs behind a screen, pulls down a picture of him dressed as a sexy cop, then busts through it dressed as the sexy cop. He takes two shirts off (he’s “a stripper/magician”) and Howie’s ring is dangling from one of his nipple rings. Howie gets off stage and Howard tells Aoni strippers shouldn’t have man boobs. It’s a no. It’s a hell no.

Oh god no, that lady is covered in birds! Tuppence a freaking bag. I hate birds. They are so creepy and gross and this is not right. The birds are squacking at each other atop Miss Les. The act is not a bird act, it is a singing act that just happens to be covered in birds. Howie acts like it is hilarious to him, but to me it is just sad. “I love this,” Howie says jovially. “No, you don’t,” Howard insists. How-ard, How-ard, How-ard!

A guy sang “Proud Mary” while some sort of Chinese nightmare paraded by in the background. As “9 to 5” kept playing, some weirdo wearing layers upon layers of sequins sang, another guy sings poorly. But Howard Stern is amusing through it all. A strangely proportioned Dolly Parton lookalike came out with a ukelele, followed by the Sexy Sax Man, one of my favorite memes. And the winner of this montage is: Howard Stern.

Finally, something good and interesting. This guy William Close invented the world’s largest string instrument. I forget what he called it, so let’s just call it the Giant Harp. Oh, it’s an “Earth Harp.” It goes out and attaches to the balcony. That’s cool! To play it, he wears special gloves and and just pulls on these strings/wires. His wife, who is five months pregnant, watches with hormonal tears in her eyes. It’s like a giant musical spider web, and I’m glad we get to see this, but simultaneously sad we wasted time on that cockatiel lady. Howard Stern gave him a standing ovation, later telling William “This is why I’m here.” It’s a yes to Vegas.

Oh no, another dance crew. This one clogs. Elements Dance Cru claims to be different, but I declare Season 7 to be “Not The Season of The Dance, That Was Last Season.” They’re good enough for Vegas, sure, but I don’t know how much further they’ll go this season. I will give them this, though, it’s the coolest clogging I’ve seen. They’re in! And so are the acts in this next montage:

A BMX/trampoline stunt group, All Wheel Sports, impresses their way to Vegas, followed by The Amazing Elizabeth, who is performing aerial silks completely shockingly. The strength it takes to do that! Then a white guy in khakis slowly freestyled and the crowd liked it, apparently.

Hey, you’ve seen that adorable father-daughter duo on YouTube, right? Well now they’re here on AGT. Jorge and Alexis Navarro are just as cute as you remember them on your computer screen, and maybe even more in tune. She’s just adorable. Her back and forth with Sharon was pretty endearing and genuine. I like that she just seemed like a kid, and Jorge wasn’t telling her what to say.

It’s Day 2 and Howard Stern is ready for his premiere episode to continue. The elevator “gets stuck” and in a moment of authority, Howard Stern ushers everyone out and tramples Howie’s mother, declaring her “expendable.” I like him more all the time.

Up first for Day 2 is crossbow act Ben Black. DANGER! He’s going to shoot his crossbow at balloons, and a girl holding a target. I don’t know that I’m charged up by a guy who’s just really into shooting a crossbow, but fine. Let’s see how he can step it up! He shot a balloon in that girl’s mouth, and for the finale, she holds up a piece of newspaper, and he shoots it aggressively in half. Then he released some balloons from the ribbons holding them captive. The judges were pretty funny with her, Howie asking why he gets a vest and she only gets hotpants, and noting Ben’s posing. Hes in. I think they’re having fun, and I like that Howard is very low on the bullsh*t level so far.

For the next act, it’s lights out. But for being in the dark, things look very familiar. “Light Wire Theater” is basically just doing Team iLuminate from last season but with dinosaurs. It was cool, and certainly not the type of act to get boring, but didn’t we just see that? The audience goes wild and Light Wire Theater looks very proud of themselves. Howard says he applauds their originality and is lucky to live in a country that allows creativity. Howie says they’ve topped everything we saw in the past. If you say so, Howie!

Oh christ, a snake guy. His talent is putting gross things in his mouth? Holding gross animals? I’m not sure why that gets a standing ovation. But then there was a hilarious ventriloquist act with a real dog and a mouthpiece. I love that. It’s funny! The World Famous Stick and Move Dance Crew or whatever cartwheeled around together across the stage and right into Vegas.

Chicago weirdo and stay-at-home dad is here to be creepy and put needles through his face. If anything, I think Season 7 will reveal Nick Cannon to be an adorable and loving father to all. A kinder, gentler Nick Cannon. The lizard-faced Sanjula puts needles through his cheeks and it is just awful. I don’t want it! “You remind me of why I don’t like people,” Howard notes, and says no to Las Vegas.

Some kids in a kazoo choir, one of which Howard calls his son, fail to excite the judges, as does Stormin’ Norman, who puts some lights in a pumpkin and dances around. I liked him. A guy sort of danced around to a Nick Cannon song, so of course Nick had to come out and show him how it’s done Wild ‘n Out style. What a waste of everyone’s time.

Is it over yet? No. Loyalty Dance Team looks like Zuma Zuma with those zebra pants. I suppose there are only so many ways to do animal print. They have a good energy and they’re pretty tight for a bunch of sales associates and fast food workers. It’s fun, so they’re moving on to Vegas.

Simply Sergio. He takes himself seriously, but he’s about to be a joke. Howard spares him the humility right as the first strains of “Girl from Ipanema” come over the speakers. Howie lets it go on for far too long, because we all have to have a good laugh at Sergio’s confused expense! Come on, Howie, that is just mean. “Well, that was dreadful, of course. You know that don’t you?” Howard says, affirming himself as my favorite judge. Simply Sergio sings “God Bless America” and it is marginally better. Howie enjoys the attention, though, and stands in a mock salute. Howard walks on stage and hugs Sergio. Sergio sweats on Howard’s hand. Howie tells Simply Sergio that it’s corny and funny and “people love that.” It’s a yes, apparently. I don’t know. Fine.

Shanice and Maurice! Another father-daughter duo. These two are street performers, which Sharon says is “great.” They don’t have a whole lot of stage presence at this level, but they’re very real and likable. Shanice is surprisingly skilled, and I think they could give Jorge and Alexis a run for their money. I like them, and so do the judges. They’re in!

That’s a wrap on some auditions in LA and St. Louis. What do you think of Howard Stern as the new judge?

(images courtesy of NBC)

Carla Patton

Writer, BuddyTV

Originally from Seattle, Carla recently took a husband and moved to Austin, Texas, where she is finally using her television “problem” to her advantage. It’s sort of like Dexter, but boring and less murdering. Carla’s favorite shows include 30 RockThe Amazing RaceProject RunwayModern Family, anything with murder, and pretty much anything gross and weird (CSIThe BachelorToddlers & Tiaras, etc.). Favorite canceled shows include: Arrested DevelopmentVeronica Mars and Average Joe. In her spare time, Carla leads tours of downtown Austin on a Segway (don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it!), blogs about Netflix Instant, and visits elementary schools telling children they don’t need math to succeed (just kidding, stay in school, kids).