The America’s Got Talent season 12 auditions are officially in the books, and that means it’s on to the Judge Cuts. Guest panelist and Singled Out host Chris Hardwick is on hand to help Simon Cowell, Heidi Klum, Mel B. and Howie Mandel begin the arduous task of whittling down their pre-selected Top 80 to 28.

It happens in batches of 20, with one golden buzzer and six other acts advancing out of each group. They head to the live shows, where they are joined by already-chosen quarterfinalists Light Balance and a barbershop quartet of sadness. (Okay, ventriloquist Darci Lynne Farmer doesn’t have a tragic past, but work with me.)

America’s Got Talent Recap: Who Snags Heidi’s Golden Buzzer? >>>

Deaf Mandy Harvey and formerly blind Christian Guardino were certainly deserving of their golden buzzers. And while Angelina Green and her single, nearly homeless mother was a questionable choice, the judges are suckers for singers with emotional backstories.

You math whizzes recognize that’s only 33, with the judges picking three previous acts to return as wildcards. In season 11, they used one such wildcard to correct the season’s most egregious error: the elimination of Rubik’s cube magician Steven Brundage in favor of a silly kid magician named Kadan Bart Rockett. 

So, really, it’s a chance to atone for mistakes in addition to offering second chances.  

I normally recap the acts in the order they take the stage, but seeing as how we don’t have separate performance rankings until the live shows, I’m going to repeat my format of seasons past and present the acts in countdown order from worst to first. And then we can see if the judges (and you) agree. On to the show!

20. Maw Kitty

File this one under “Why?” because this elder burlesque singer and dancer doesn’t even have a great voice. If we saw her audition, I think I assumed she didn’t make it through. On the bright side, her Simon serenade prompts Mel B. to douse him with her water (again). 


19. Mariachi Nuevo Santader

I’m not sure if they’re a choir or Mariachi musicians, or both, but their sound is not pleasing to the ear. We didn’t see their audition, and they don’t get much more screen time here. Still, Mel B. says, “It couldn’t have gone any better.” Like when you get a C in science, but your parents expected a D. 


18. Eric Jennifer

I guess he’s a stand-up comic, in that he stands up and attempts what he considers comedic material. He’s another unseen audition, and he essentially just screams variations of his apparent catch phrases — “make some noise” and “good job” — around poorly constructed jokes about living with his mom and eating cat food. Howie dubs him the type of act you either love or hate — and, well, you can tell how I feel by the ranking.

17. Canion Shijirbat

The most disappointing performer of the night, he was the projection dancer who I had early hope could be the next Kenichi Ebina. But that dream has been taken from me, as he barely moves at all while earning X’s from Heidi and Simon.

16. The Baker Family

Another audition we didn’t see, they’re a family blue grass band. It’s fine, but there’s nothing particularly noteworthy.


15. Danylo and Oskar

The father-son hand-balancing strongman duo gives the exact same performance as their audition, only wearing beach gear instead of suits.


14. Sara and Hero

This pair needed groveling from Simon to sway Howie and score them a spot in this round, so they’ve added more props, tricks and a bow tie in an effort to up their game. They’re talented and cute with an inspirational backstory, but after Olate Dogs won this thing a few years back, we really need something we’ve never seen before. And this wasn’t it.

It’s a girl dancing with a dog. 

13. Dancing Pumpkin Man

I hate, hate, hate putting him this high, but at least he’s memorable. He’s hilarious (his response to Heidi’s buzzer is, “That’s a super valid reaction”) and adds a cape, along with a bedazzled unitard under his first unitard. His dance moves are still terrible, but it’s a toss-up if I’d rather see what he can cook up next versus any of the acts listed above.

12. Singing Donald Trump

He does a killer Trump impression and is an energetic performer, but put it all together and it makes absolutely no sense. He can sing and dance, but I don’t want him to do either, even if it’s the Backstreet Boys. Why is everyone standing afterwards?  

11. The Masqueraders 

The trio of old-school soul crooners is fighting the good fight while chasing decades-old dreams, and their “Bring It on Home to Me” (Sam Cooke? Again?) is on point with perfect harmonies. But mostly, it’s the exact same performance as their audition. They’ll be safe, but they’re going to have to find a way to elevate their game for a truly mind-blowing performance if they want to have a chance to be in it for the long haul.

10. Carlos De Antonis 

The man billed as the taxi driving opera singer is a crowd favorite, but his winning the disingenuous backstory award of season 12 is too much for me to get on board. The guy has toured the world and performed with the best and brightest, and I couldn’t find a single reference to him driving for a car service in his bio after I learned that he is a professional recording artist. 

Quiz: Which America’s Got Talent Judge Are You? >>>

9. The Aerial Twins

Call Lera and Nika Tomanova the Riddler Sisters because they swing and flip around 25 feet above the stage wearing what resemble question marks. When push comes to shove, I’ll take an acrobatic aerial routine over another pretty good singer any day of the week.


8. Yosein-chee

We got a brief glimpse of him balancing on the end of a sword by his mouth in the audition round, during a montage of similar acts. This time, he starts off by balancing his head on top of a liquor bottle. He then unsheathes a bunch of knives and inverts himself on unsecured pieces of wood placed precariously at the edge of a platform above said cutlery. You think that’s it, but then he throws the wood blocks off to the side and catches himself on the platform with his hands. 

7. Harrison Greenbaum

The likable comedian continues his likable run with likable jokes about people who get struck by lightning multiples times. I like him.

6. Eric Jones

He made a coin appear in Mel’s hands during a brief audition appearance, but Simon wasn’t a fan. It’s close-up playing card magic this time, and he has Chris sign the Joker before smashing Simon’s buzzer with a hammer to reveal the autographed card.


5. Just Jerk

Cringe-worthy name aside, this group of South Korean dancers are crisp with their choreography. I previously argued that if you put them in Light Balance’s neon suits, you might have a winner.

4. Tom London

He makes audience members’ phones flash with famous landmarks, and Chris writes down “Lincoln Memorial” before Tom hands him a ticket stub from a trip to DC. The other judges make their own picks, and Tom makes a video appear on a phone that shows him in front of each one, accurately predicting who picked what. Simon is correct that Tom needs to learn to become a great performer, but the magic itself is new and exciting. 

3. Demian Aditya

He was nearly crushed by sand and then appeared as his own rescuer while his wife, Sara, had a nervous breakdown during his audition, so why not do the same during the Judge Cuts? He ups the ante, burying himself chained and handcufffed in a 10-foot hole with (apparently) only 90 seconds of air and a spouse in a frenzied state. The camera goes out halfway through, prompting Sara to lose her damn mind and shriek that they need to get Demian out of the hole. Only, he’s already out and dressed as a worker shoveling dirt. It’s cool, but I don’t like that I knew what was coming. I also don’t buy the wife’s outbursts anymore. 

2. Darcy Callus

I try to avoid falling in love with singers, but the couch dweller-looking Australian’s rendition of Queen’s “Somebody to Love” only makes me want to hear more from him. 

1. Angelica Hale 

She had double pneumonia when she was 4 and needed a kidney transplant from Mom, but what’s most striking about this adorable, giggly youngster is that she deserved a golden buzzer more than some of the actual recipients. Her voice is huge, and she slays again with Alicia Keys’ “Girl on Fire.” I generally look for anything I can to critique when it comes to singers, as they’re all doing the same thing, but this is flawless with the perfect amount of ferocity from a 9-year-old. She earns Chris’ golden buzzer, and the rest is history.


I’m not a fan of placing singers one-two atop my rankings, but Angelica and Darcy were the most enjoyable this time. The two magicians were both good, along with the escape artist, the comedian and the poorly named dance troupe. Unfortunately, I worry that the judges will group together similar acts and only advance one, regardless of who actually deserves to reach the quarterfinals. 

They tend to choose story over substance, so knowing AGT, I think they’ll find a way to put through the old soul crooners and either The Donald or the pumpkin guy. I’ll go with Angelica (because they can’t screw that one up) and Darcy, Tom London, Demian Aditya, Harrison Greenbaum, Just Jerk and The Masqueraders. 

When push comes to shove, Singing Trump has to go home, right? 


Mariachi Nuevo Santander is first out, and it’s a no.

The Masqueraders, Carlos De Antonis and Darcy Callus are up next, which is immediately a cause for concern. The Masqueraders are through. Damn.

Sara and Hero have made the cut, while Danylo and Oskar, Yosein Chee and the Aerial Twins are headed home. I did not see that one coming.

Eric Jennifer, Canion Shijirbat, The Baker Family and Harrison Greenbaum are all eliminated. Ugh. 

Maw Kitty and the Dancing Pumpkin Man are out, and Singing Trump is in. Well, this is wholly unsatisfying so far.

Just Jerk and Demian Aditya are both in the quarterfinals. Finally, something I agree with.

Last to learn their fates, with one spot left, are magicians Eric Jones and Tom London. And it’s Eric Jones who survives because why appreciate the harmonious blend of unexplainable magic and technology when you can vote in favor of tried-and-true card tricks? (To be clear, they both deserved to advance.)

They got it wrong. They just got it so, so wrong.

The Aftermath

Well, that was disappointing. Were you guys watching the show that I saw? Or the one that led to five people agreeing on those delusional picks?

Which acts were your favorites and were you shocked at the eliminations? Who do you think is a serious contender and which Judge Cut are you already hoping earns one of the coveted wildcards? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

America’s Got Talent airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on NBC. Want more news? Like our Facebook page.

(Images and videos courtesy of NBC)

Bill King

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV

Emmy-winning news producer & former BuddyTV blogger. Lover of Philly sports, Ned, Zoe, Liam and Delaine…not in that order