Wednesday, August 08, 2007

America's Got Talent: They can be your heroes, baby

Tuesday was Heroes Night on America's Got Talent. Sadly, not Heroes Night, which would have been awesome – Greg Grunberg could have performed with his super-sweet band – but, literally, recognition of those people who inspired the contestants. Which was great, because we actually learned more about the contestants by listening to them talk about their heroes than we have by hearing them recite, one more time, how much this competition means to them.

And, America? You're my heroes. You put through the right eight acts. (Yes, I will even give you Sideswipe, because they did rather well this week.) The time had definitely come for the Duttons, who were being eclipsed by the other, fantastic musical acts. The Calypso Tumblers, though, were a lot of fun, and I was hoping they'd come back for this week. But it was clear that they weren't going to make it much further, and even if they had performed this week, I wouldn't have picked them for next week's finale, because fun wouldn't have been enough.

The interesting thing about this week's episode was how they revealed the top eight. In an effort to keep people watching, perhaps to bolster the ratings of The Singing Bee, the show didn't actually reveal who was going home until the very end, choosing instead to announce each act that was staying as it was time for each to perform. Much preferable to the alternative, a filler-packed results show. If American Idol did this, we wouldn't have to sit through those Wednesday night shows, but Fox would also lose a guaranteed top-ten show every week, so I don't think they'll be taking any cues from AGT. Anyway, my only issue with how America's Got Talent did this: Butterscotch. She was kept waiting until almost the very end, despite the complete non-suspense surrounding her. Honestly, Jerry, just say her name first and be done with it. We all know she's coming back.

Next week is the finale (already?), and out of the final eight, four will continue and battle it out next Tuesday. So let's check and see how they did this week:

Robert Hatcher: His performance of "Let's Stay Together" was probably my favorite that he's ever turned in. It was soulful, perfectly suited to him, and he worked the crowd better than he ever has before. However, he might have lost a few points by being the only contestant not to pick a friend or family member as his hero – instead, he chose Al Green. Robert, seriously: mom. Your default answer to "Who is your hero?" should always be your mom.

Julienne Irwin: She dedicated her song, "Crazy," to her friends back home, while sitting on what appeared to be a dense fog. Got enough mist on that stage there, AGT? Naturally, it was the sort of song that's perfect for her, and she managed to nail some of Patsy Cline's signature swooping notes, but I thought she struggled with the low notes. Piers, ironically, all but assured her a place in the final by saying that he thought she wouldn't make it to the final; I'll bet a ton of people picked up the phone and called just to prove the mean British guy wrong about the cute teenage girl.

Terry Fator: Terry had one of the most touching stories of the night about his hero: his sister Debbie, a big supporter of his who has rheumatoid arthritis. For her, he brought out "Johnny Vegas," easily his creepiest puppet yet, to sing "That's Amore" as Dean Martin and "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" as Tony Bennett. And I can't explain why this puppet bothered me so much, except to say: imagine that Dean Martin was turned into a Muppet, and then imagine that the resulting Muppet was watching you while you slept. It freaked me out, is what I'm saying. Anyway, Terry continues to amaze me, as I sit and wonder how he can sing so well with his mouth mostly closed. He revealed after his performance that he'd like to headline in Vegas, and I say he's perfectly suited for it, and any casino would be lucky to have him.

Cas Haley: He played "Easy" by Lionel Richie, for his parents and a late friend of his, and infused it with his signature quasi-reggae sound for a phenomenal performance. The judges loved it, I loved it, and there will have to be some massive voter fraud to keep him from coming back next week.

Jason Pritchett: He sang "If Tomorrow Never Comes" and dedicated it to his grandfather. It was a nice performance, one that inspired a lot of swaying and arm-waving from the audience members, but not a great one. For the first time, I think Robert Hatcher outsung him. But Piers buzzed him, and, as with Julienne, probably encouraged a lot of sympathy and/or "shut up, Piers" votes for Jason.

The Glamazons: They turned out their greatest show this week for a song that truly deserves a huge, over-the-top spectacle: the inimitable "It's Raining Men." They had buff shirtless guys and pyrotechnics galore, but it couldn't mask the fact that a couple members of the group are much, much weaker singers than the others. Ah, well. It was a truly great performance, true to their cabaret soul, and the story about their hero, the mother of one of the singers, was very sweet. I still love them.

Butterscotch: She sang "My Funny Valentine," dedicated to her jazz-loving grandparents, and accompanied herself on the piano. You know, we saw her play the piano in the Las Vegas callbacks, but I'd forgotten how good a pianist she really is. Is there anything she can't do? She blew the lid off the song, she's great, and if you didn't vote for her, it's okay – you just suck.

Sideswipe: They came out with something really different this week: an elaborately choreographed martial-arts pirate fight, dedicated to their old sensei. At first I wasn't sure about it – I thought that they were going to get into the same trouble that Popovich Comedy Pet Theater got into, for trying to tell a story with their act – but they turned me around. That was one spectacular pirate fight, and probably their best performance to date. Even Piers liked it, and he didn't even get a pirate wench on his lap, like the Hoff did.

Who should make it to the final: Cas Haley, Butterscotch, Julienne Irwin, Terry Fator