The Memorial Day weekend, largely considered the kick-off to summer, has come and gone, with backyard barbecues, trips to the beach and seasonal stores once again open for business.

But fans know that summer doesn’t really begin until the nation’s wildest talent show rears its curly-haired, bespectacled head through the television sets of millions of Americans. Yes, folks, America’s Got Talent is back for a ninth season, with the entire family returning to guide us through four long months of grueling auditions, performances and live shows until we crown yet another maybe-success story that currently has a roughly one in eight chance of being a sort-of household name. (Looking at you, Terry Fator.)

Last year’s winner — choreographer and dancer extraordinaire Kenichi Ebina — has done precisely nothing since taking the season 8 title, other than spurring “It’s not Japan’s Got Talent” ignorant racial prejudice, at least according to what I can find with a Google search. But that matters not, as he was a deserving champion who I rooted for all season long. And I eloquently explained why in this article dissecting his phenomenal eight-Kenichis-dancing finale performance.

So join us at BuddyTV as we embark on another quest to find America’s craziest and most entertaining act. Hop on board, kids. Nick Cannon might be driving, but Howard Stern tells him where to go. 

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A Family Reunion

Nick Cannon is probably the most underrated host in reality show history, and he looks much better working the crowd and introducing the judges than he does promoting his first album in years in whiteface. But the man knows how to create buzz and get people talking.

“America’s Judge” Howard Stern is once again joined by cohorts Heidi Klum, Mel B. and Howie Mandel, who are greeted at New York City’s Madison Square Garden by the mysterious Golden Buzzer. It allows each judge one chance and one chance only to save an act, no matter what the other judges think.

So without further adieu, here’s the good, the bad and the ugly from the first audition show in New York City and Los Angeles.

The Good

The first featured performer is a talkative half-endearing, half-annoying 9-year-old science nerd named Adrian Romoff. And while you can’t be a scientist at such a young age, you can be a musician. So this eighth grader (he skipped five grades) instead wows us with his piano skills. He’s apparently a rock opera guy who deserves a place in Mannheim Steamroller, but I’m not digging the whole techno setting on the Yamaha. Howard is confused, and Adrian’s second classical offering is much more entertaining. But just shut up and play, kid.

An unnamed group of six clogging siblings and a couple of classically-trained dancers-turned-circus performers both advance, but neither offers anything new and can only go so far. 

Five young men who belong to an acrobatic break dance comedy group have crazy moves and loads of potential, and they remind me of the guys who perform in Central Park for tourists every day. They get four yeses and do a bunch of flips to celebrate.

Dan Naturman is a stand-up comedian who gets some laughs with quality jokes about marriage and Internet dating.

Hand balancer Rokardy gets a standing ovation after climbing up a contraption that he builds to the ceiling of the stage while holding himself inverted by one hand. It is dangerous, smooth and seamless, and if he survives, he’s got a chance. Assistant and son Carlos doesn’t quite match his father’s charisma, though, with a very cardboard-esque persona.

Mike Greenstein is a 93-year-old strongman known as Mighty Atom, Jr., who pulls vehicles with his teeth. A picture of his father and brothers, who used to all perform together, is printed on his T-shirt. The judges and audience follow him outside to the streets of Manhattan, where he indeed pulls, with his teeth, a 3,500-pound Griswold-style station wagon holding his 84-year-old brother, his sister-in-law and his lady friend. It’s a nice testament to his family’s legacy, but let’s be honest, old dude isn’t going anywhere. It’s not like you can say no to him, even though Howard is the only one ballsy enough to try.

Acte II is a couple of old college friends who I think are about to have a 227-style comedy routine before the two ladies launch into a gorgeous opera duet. 

A breakdancer advances despite Howard’s disapproval.

Dustin and the cat-masked Terry of Dustin’s Dojo are either hilarious geniuses or the weirdest people alive. They smash wooden sticks and break the record for full-extension punches, and then Terry throws salt in Dustin’s eyes. The guys love it and the girls hate it, so Howard uses his sole Golden Buzzer. Dustin promises they have many more skills and that all our dreams will come true. 

A bunch of dance troupes advance, including the Rebel Girls, a set of sleeved tux-clad steppers and a set of sleeveless tux-clad steppers

Nick and Rachel of dance pair Blue Journey just met four days ago, and they interact with pre-recorded shadow projections on a screen behind them. It’s innovative and a page out of Kenichi’s book, but their moves aren’t nearly as impressive as his. The judges love it, but this strikes me as an unpolished art form that has potential but needs a lot of work.

Singer Jaycob Curlee has a heartwarming tale about his drug-addicted and prison-bound parents and how Child Protective Services put him and his sister in foster care. They had supervised visits, but then his parents just stopped showing up. He was adopted at age 8 by a loving couple who couldn’t be prouder of him. The 18-year-old closes out the premiere with an emotional rendition of John Mayer’s “Waiting on the World to Change.” He’s got a sweet voice, but nowhere near the power or polish to go very far in the competition. But that’s not what this is about, as he and his mom cry during a standing ovation, Mel B. offers a hug and Howie says that Jaycob is nobody’s luggage and is now an adopted member of the America’s Got Talent family. 

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The Bad

We have to sit through a bunch of comedians who bomb harder than John Carter before we get to the above-mentioned Dan Naturman.

Singer Donnie Valentine rocks a Jheri curl and claims to have an incredible range that brings him to tears, but he’s basically terrible and gets four X’s faster than any performer in Howard Stern’s tenure. It’s one of those sad moments where people who really believe they have a gift instead get their dreams crushed by a crowd that is laughing at them, but at least they let him get to his slightly-better falsetto before sending him on his way.

Strongwoman Julie, who has the record for the biggest female arms, does squats with Nick on her back. 

A musical group of bald head and face slappers is more of a head scratcher, so Howie and his scalp get in on the action before he punches the fourth X.

A woman hula hoops but does no tricks, and Howie chides that she looks like she’s trying to escape before Nick hoops it up as well.

Montages include a group of female dancers, a knife thrower, an old woman who sleepily plays a table full of bells, a guy who catches a ping pong ball in his mouth and a dance troupe of gold-clad cross-dressers. I don’t know if any of these acts advance, and I don’t care. 

Larry the Mime is pretty terrible at the one thing his name implies he is good at, but I have him pegged pretty early as Nick Cannon. The judges X him, and he unleashes a verbal tirade before rushing the table while Howie screams for security and puts his dukes up. Great prank, terrible miming. For a mime, that is. For Nick, not half bad.

The Aftermath

A lot of quality acts grace the stage, but only a handful jump out to me as having game-changing potential. I’ve got my eye on the acrobatic break dance comedy group, comedian Dan Naturman, hand balancer Rokardy and opera singers Acte II.

Dustin’s Dojo could be a sleeper once they prove their routine is just an act while still keeping up their personas, and some dance groups like The Rebel Girls will inevitably advance to the live shows. 

Standout shadow dancers Blue Journey and singer Jaycob Curlee have their work cut out for them and need to take big steps to have a chance, despite their innovative act and emotional backstory, respectively. 

Who were your favorites, and who do you think has the best shot to make some noise in this competition? And are you happy the whole team is back together? Or were you hoping for any additions or subtractions? The journey to the next million-dollar winner of America’s Got Talent has officially begun, so strap in. It’s going to be an elderly teeth-pulling ride.

You can watch America’s Got Talent every Tuesday at 8pm on NBC.

(Image 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