America’s Got Talent made reality TV history recently when season 2 winner Terry Fator, a ventriloquist from Dallas, TX, signed a five year performance deal with the Mirage Casino and Resort in Las Vegas worth over $100 million.  According to the show’s producers, that makes Terry one of the most successful competitive reality contestants ever.

Can America’s Got Talent work its same magic this year?  Well, it’s certainly going to try.  Tonight begins season 3’s country-wide auditions, in which singers, dancers, magicians, contortionists, and, well, anyone with talent will try out with the goal to entertain America, win the $1 million prize money, and get a shot at being the next Terry Fator with their very own show on the Vegas strip.

After an overly dramatic opening montage which reintroduces us to judges Piers Morgan, Sharon Osbourne and David Hasselhoff (plus their “dreaded buzzers”), America’s Got Talent begins by showing us endless crowds of auditioners waving at the camera. Over 200,000 people tried out in locations around the US ranging from Los Angeles all the way to New York.

Host Jerry Springer tells us how the show will work: After making it through this opening audition round, the contestants will have to impress the judges in Vegas before being allowed to compete for us in live shows.  Apparently the theater audience this year will also be able to boo people offstage, like we’re at the Apollo or something. Now that sounds like good, embarrassing fun.

We’re starting off in New York, and the first auditioner is 52-year-old Bill “Serious Mysterious” Curly, who swears he’s been told he was a great dancer since he was a child. Those people lied. He does a Tom Jones impression that is like a drunk, fat Elvis doing a Tom Jones impression, and he’s almost immediately buzzed and booed off stage. When the whole disaster is over, Piers says that it was the single worst tribute act he’s ever seen. The audience cheers in agreement. It’s a unanimous no from the judges.

A montage of horrible auditions follows, showing everything from a teenager with a flexible tongue, a dancer/trumpeter who is bad at both, a crazy little puppet act with what looks like midgets, a guy who hums on his hand, and a comedian who puts a shower cap over his face for reasons unknown to me, but which I take was a failed attempt at a joke. David Hasselhoff asks the camera where the talent is at. I wish I knew the answer, Hoff. I wish I knew.

Jonathan Arons is a trombonist from New York City. He seems like a pleasant gentleman and as a former trombonist myself, I hope he does our people proud. Disco music plays in the background and Jonathan breaks out the trombone to play along. What he also breaks out, unexpectedly, are some crazy ‘70s dance moves that have the entire audience clapping along with him. Jonathan here tromboned and did the hustle straight into my cold, dead heart. The judges also found him entertaining and he’s off to Vegas.

Next up are feisty twin sisters Indiggo. Why the extra “g”? I don’t know. Maybe it has a twin, too? These girls look like Russian mail order brides from the future with their dark red lipstick and revealing metallic outfits. They sing in throaty, accented voices to “New York, New York.” They are very community theater in their badness, but they soldier on through the buzzers and the boos and eventually the sheer force of their personalities elicits just as many cheers as boos. The girls are met with a positive response from Sharon, but David compares them to Dracula women and says they should go back to Bucharest. Strangely, Piers was won over by their loud insanity, and he sends them through to Vegas.

Next up is a brother act called Nuttin But Strings. They combine classical and hip-hop music using what are surely their mad violin skills. After some flirting between the boys and Sharon, they break out their act, which is exactly as described. It’s fast paced and thumping, with some incredibly fast violin playing. It’s like “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” meets MTV, and it’s awesome. When they finish, the audience is on its feet and cheering. They are unanimously praised by the judges and are sent through to Vegas.

With those successes, we head into a montage of good performers. This time we have an illusionist, a puppet show done with a raw chicken that pops out an egg, some frat boy types doing a Stomp-like routine with trash cans and colorful batons, and a quartet of beautiful girls that sing an old time-y tune.

80-year-old retired waitress Mary Blye is a tap dancer in a polka dot dress. She looks like an elderly Shirley Temple. She taps her way on stage and makes a Mary J. Blige reference — who doesn’t love an old lady who can bust out some pop culture quips? Her music cranks up and she begins her tapping. Considering her age, it’s not bad, but that in no way implies that it’s great. Jerry Springer is terrified that she will fall off the edge of the stage, which thankfully she does not. She gets a buzz from David and Piers, and after David gives his critique she begins tapping offstage. I think she forgot where she was, and in fact David calls back to my earlier joke and says she looks like Shirley Temple after being lost in the woods for years. Mary is not going to Vegas, but everyone enjoyed her moxie anyway.

From over the hill to barely starting up the hill, there’s a sad montage of little kids getting their hearts broken when they are told they aren’t talented enough to proceed. Sorry, wee little tap dancer! Au revoir, hula hooping boy! You did do your best, mini accordion player! Sadly, your best wasn’t good enough, but you’re young, I trust you’ll bounce back from this nationally televised failure.

Can four year old singer Kaitlyn Maher win the judges’ hearts when so many other moppets have tried and failed? Her parents seem to think so, and what better objective judges of her talent could there be? To “awws” from the audience Kaitlyn sings “Somewhere Out There” and does an absolutely adorable job. This is perhaps the cutest thing I’ve seen on TV this year, I’m not going to lie. You can see Piers’s heart grow three sizes that day as he watches, and as Kaitlyn ends the audience cheers loudly. She gets three yesses from the judges and she’s off to Vegas. Seems her parents were right about her after all.

I am normally such a jaded person, but that whole sequence totally made me smile. If you excuse me, I think I have something in my eye. I should go take care of that.

On to Chicago, where more acts wait for the chance to embarrass themselves on TV. A group of moms calling themselves the Slippery Kittens are the first to perform. The lead mom looks like she’s on her way to having Joan Rivers’s face, and I am frightened to think what the “slippery kittens” of this groups’ name is referring to. The ladies come out dressed in old time-y red-and-black dresses, saying that they want to show that burlesque can be classy. They do a Can Can and proceed to strip off much of their clothing while flashing their underoos at the camera, which is not the class they promised us, no sir. I’m sure their children are mortified watching this at home, though it is fairly enjoyable for the rest of us. Piers makes a crack about the Joan Rivers mom having had a lot of work done, which is horribly inappropriate and also funny as all heck. Good show, Mr. Morgan. The Slippery Kittens are put through to Vegas.

32-year-old factory worker Che has invented something that looks like two guitars fused together into one big Siamese guitar. He spends far too much time plugging the contraption in as a bored, silent audience watches. Eventually he gets started and the results are horrendous. It’s like what would happen if I played Guitar Hero drunk, this noise he makes. He is booed and buzzed off the stage.

The audience goes mad, apparently, and begins booing people off stage without even giving them a chance. Even Santa can’t win them over. The audience seems ready to storm the stage with giant hooks and pull off an old lady warbler and a group of percussionists. The judges are frightened for their lives. The audience wants blood.

17-year-old Jonathan was teased mercilessly as a child because of his talent. Will he now have to add “literally torn to shreds by a rabid Chicago audience” to his list of personal traumas? Turns out he is a baton twirler, and he goes whole hog by breaking out the flaming batons. “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” blares as he twirls and spins and tosses and even flips across the stage. He does well and, what do you know, he is greeted with uproarious cheers. The judges are proud of him, even calling out his emotional mother to congratulate her, too. Jonathan and his mom are on to Vegas.

I guess Chicago was overall not that impressive, because now we’re on to Los Angeles. A male Britney Spears impersonator named Derrick Barry comes on stage looking fierce. Sorry to say it, but current day Britney wishes she looked as good as this guys does while impersonating her. He does his drag act while singing along to “Toxic.” He even has fake backup singers. Piers is not amused, but the other judges and most of the audience seemed to enjoy themselves. I think we’re all just so starved for the original non-crazy Britney that we’ll glom on to the closest thing we can get. Piers doesn’t want Derrick to go to Vegas, but Sharon and David both give him a yes. Faux Britney and his pleather cat suit are on to the next round.

Los Angeles proved good for the judges and we get a montage of other talented folks including a woman dancing with hoops, a clog dancing troop dressed in black leather, a 15-year-old singer who busts out with “I Have Nothing,” and a hip hop dance troop.

A group of dance teachers called Dallas Dance Company is up next, and even if all of these women are childless they look more like moms than the Slippery Kittens with their plastic surgery and tattoos ever will. Strangely, for a bunch of dance teachers their jazz dance routine is horrendous and they are all sent home. The judges are just as unimpressed by a “Thriller” routine performed by a group of high schoolers in full on zombie make up, a poor excuse for a hip hop dancer, a pair of twin dancers that did not double my pleasure, and a grandma on roller skates who does some krumping. That last one wasn’t as fun to watch as it should have been, sadly.

A contemporary young clog team is one of the last acts. They hit it hard as a hip-hop song comes on. They are kind of like Riverdance with a contemporary soundtrack, and I think it’s totally fun. Piers buzzes them, but he explains it was because he hated their dayglo outfits. He is booed soundly by the audience. With warning that they need to change the outfits and with the audience cheering for them, the youthful cloggers are sent through to Vegas.

Insurance salesmen Neil is an opera singer and is one of the last performers to go on. After lengthy talk about how his mother inspired him, during which Neil becomes misty eyed, they play his music and he begins to sing, absolutely beautifully. I’m no expert on opera, but it sounds fantastic to me. The theater audience clearly agrees and quickly gets to their feet. It’s not long before even the judges are standing, which is not something you often seen on any talent competition show. He easily sails through to the Vegas round, and he gets emotional as he is told he is now a clear front runner.

That’s it for this week’s auditions. The search for America’s top talent will continue next Tuesday at 9pm with another two hours of entertaining and talented people vying for the grand prize as Piers, Sharon and David continue their trek through America’s largest cities.

– , BuddyTV Staff Writer
(Photo courtesy of NBC)

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