Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Calculating the top 35 on 'America's Got Talent'

The Las Vegas callbacks are here! After a month of auditions, America's Got Talent has finally reached the point where the judges have to choose between (mostly) good acts. No more messing around with yodelers and big giant hands; I'm actually going to miss some of the acts who go now.

Our intrepid host Jerry Springer started off the evening by explaining the intricacies of the callback round. Good thing he did, too, because it all sounds like a math problem on the SAT. 70 acts made it through to Las Vegas, but only 20 will make it to the live performance shows. The acts were separated into two groups, music and variety, and from those two groups the judges chose a total of 35 acts, from which, on Wednesday night's show, they will choose the final 20. Everybody got that?

First up: the musical acts. Since they compressed all the music acts into half an hour, the show really only had time to feature eight acts, and, unsurprisingly, six of them made it through. Those six were: the big, beautiful Glamazons, the high-energy teens of Johnny Come Lately, Jewel-esque Fallon, singer/beatboxer Butterscotch, country singer/teddy bear Cas, and Michael the singing teacher. All good acts, and I was particularly glad to see the Glamazons, Johnny Come Lately, and Butterscotch survive, because they were all acts that I was charmed by in the auditions. As were The Three Redneck Tenors, who also made it into the final 35, despite getting precious little screen time.

But there was one truly shocking elimination among the musical acts: sweet, plucky singer Cinda. From the first time I saw her – and I really mean the first time, like in the promos from back in May – I was sure she was going to win it all. She had a good voice, she was heavily featured in the promos, and she kept saying inspiring things about how you have to follow your dream and nothing is impossible and this would mean everything to her. With editing like that, I wasn't crazy to think that she would at least make it to the live shows, right? Weren't they trying to get us to root for her? Not that it really took with me, but weren't they trying?

The variety acts fared worse than their musical counterparts: in one particular case, much, much worse. I'm sure you saw the promos that hyped a medical emergency and a contestant getting carted off in an ambulance. That contestant was Ivan the Urban Action Figure, who started out his act by attempting to jump over a line of metal folding chairs. He crashed into them, fell over, and lay quite scarily still, but the problem was that he executed such a neat flip on his head that no one realized at first that it wasn't part of the act. Thankfully, he came to and was just fine, but I'm still a little shaken up by the experience. It's just so rare that a reality show "medical emergency" turns out to be a real trauma.

For the other variety acts, the problem was that the judges had already given 21 of the 35 slots away to musical acts, so the competition among them was much fiercer. It's not terribly surprising – musical acts always have the edge – but it meant that some very good acts, like baton twirler John Mitchell, had to go home. And yet, somehow, Boy Shakira, bane of David Hasselhoff's existence, landed a spot in the top 35. Oh, Boy Shakira is a sweetheart, and I'm sure if I ever met him I'd like him a lot. But I don't think he's a good enough dancer to stay in the competition. I'm actually starting to wonder if Piers and Sharon are keeping him there just to hassle the Hoff. (Which they really shouldn't be doing. Haven't they read his book?)

Wednesday: the final 35 become the even more final 20. Will Boy Shakira inexplicably make it past this cut, too? And if he does, will the Hoff go on strike?