The “America’s Got Talent” Season 10 finale was in trouble before it even started. The Top 10 acts hit the stage Tuesday night for one last chance to make a great impression on the ultimate judges, the voting audience. But it seemed that most of the acts either ran out of material or used their best stuff to get to The Finals, and that made for an evening of rather mediocre entertainment.
As Bill King at BuddyTV recapped September 15, the revamping of the finale, finishing with ten slots instead of six (like last year), not only gave the finalists less stage time (the six had two shots last season) but would force them to streamline their acts. This would be most noticeable and tough on the magicians and comedians. (Why? Because singers sing, dancers — if there had been any in the Top 10 — dance, and physical performers do their rehearsed stunts. The Season 10 Top 10 was comprised of two singing acts, one acrobat, two comedians, one ventriloquist, and four magicians (because, be honest, you know the mentalist, Oz Pearlman, and the Professional Regurgitator are doing magic and illusions, right?).
But after Flo Rida performed his latest song, “I Don’t Like It, I Love It,” host Nick Cannon, all dressed up like Colonel Sanders (a nod to Bill King), introduced the “America’s Got Talent” judges and the show got underway.
Oz Pearlman. If we’ve learned anything from “The Mentalist” (the excellent CBS crime drama), it is that mentalists are innate frauds. Pearlman was once a Wall Street broker, which means he’s very adept at illusory things. His trick was too perfect, as they all have been. They’ve not wow-worthy, although the judges seem to think so.
Uzeyer Novruzov. He got into the Top 10 on the sympathy vote generated by his fall last week. Still hurt, he did some adequate and skillful maneuvers with a ladder and suspended ladder. Judge Howard Stern was quick to point out that his act was hurt by the fact that he was actually hurt.
Benton Blount. Another half-flat performance from a man whose “family man” backstory has kept him around to make the Finals. He consistently falls flat vocally when he doesn’t sing with power. But when he does, he shines. Such was One Direction’s “The Story Of My Life” Tuesday night.
Gary Vider. A comedian that, if “Last Comic Standing” judge Norm McDonald could critique him, would fall into the category of “writer.” He should be a comedy writer. His material, though quirky, is marginally funny. His milquetoast delivery is also too reminiscent of Season 8’s runner-up Taylor Williamson (who was also much funnier).
Piff the Magic Dragon. The frontrunner going in, Piff’s don’t-care attitude and silliness has got him this far. Well, that, and he’s a pretty good magician. But his magic wasn’t completely on target as he shot his chihuahua, Mr. Piffles, out of cannon, used a mechanical dog that he accused of being drunk, then brought the chihuahua back to life under a sheet (that wasn’t big enough to hid the guy behind the curtain who handed off the real Mr. Piffles to Piff). Although his trick, where he had judge Heidi Klum choose one of Mr. Piffles’ nuts (the bigger walnut, because, like Heidi noted, what girl doesn’t like a bigger nut?), and found judge Howie Mandel’s signed $20 bill inside (from an earlier trick). Not bad, but he’s done better.
Paul Zerdin. The ventriloquist/comedian pulled out all his characters for this finale performance and, though he showed his skill and vocal dexterity, his comedic material was lacking. And judge Howie Mandel also noted that there wasn’t a lot of difference in the sounds of the voices of the different characters. (But what was impressive was when he traded his voice with one of the puppets.)
The CraigLewis Band. The Atlanta duo stepped up their singing a notch (if that is even possible), performing The Four Seasons’ “Beggin'”. Their vocal stylings are so far beyond Benton Blount’s, it is a shame R&B singer Samantha Johnson or opera singers Daniella Mass and Arielle Baril aren’t there to at least give the guys a run for their money.
Derek Hughes. Probably the most disappointing act of the night. Where the comedians may have been short on material and Uzeyer Novruzov performed injured, Hughes was a polished magician with plenty of potential going into The Finals. So what happened? He opted for the changing length rope trick, a standard magician’s trick that’s been seen thousands of times.
Stevie Starr, the Professional Regurgitator. If one act show itself to be consistently entertaining, it was the Professional Regurgitator. Once you get past the weirdness of his schtick (and you understand that’s it’s more illusion than reality), the uniqueness of his act mesmerizes you. And he did it again. This time, after swallowing five tacks and a magnet, he upchucked the magnet with four tacks attached (per Heidi Klum’s request). He then got Nick Cannon to fire off a flame with a fireplace lighter after he sucked down some gas, then filled a bubble he blew himself with the gas. The result was a spectacular fireball as the lighter’s flame burst the bubble. A bit of the flammable material hit Starr’s arm (apparently not part of the act), singing the hair thereon, prompting Nick to mention it several times as the judges critiqued the act.
Drew Lynch. Let’s face facts. The guy is a good writer. He’s pretty funny. Funnier than Gary Vider. But he’s no Josh Blue — and the only reason he’s in the finale is due to the sympathy vote. Judge Howard Stern was correct about his laughing at his own jokes, which is more annoying than anything. (It looks contrived, probably because Lynch thinks it’s cute, but it is far more distracting than effective.) He joked about how difficult it is for him to repeat numbers, that by the time he finally finished giving out his phone number to his girlfriend when they first met, they were already on their second date. (Funny.) He ended with a joke about the difficulty of email addresses, where his stuttering sounded like two D’s, but he informed his girlfriend she was more like two C’s, because her boobs were more like “Boobachusetts.” (This was a callback, a play off of Vider’s Semifinals joke about Mel B’s breasts, which he’d stared at to the count of “one Boobassippi…” Vider’s joke: Funny. Lynch’s joke: Not even marginally amusing.) But to give Lynch credit, when Nick Cannon asked what he’d do with a million dollars if he won (a question asked of all the finalists), he said his girlfriend had worked three jobs supporting his dreams of being a comedian, so if he won, she could cut back to just two. (Now, that’s funny.)
At the end of it all, the entire show was simply underwhelming — and what a sad send-off to the great Howard Stern, who, if nothing else, kept the show on an even keel due to his honesty. Even after watching one disappointing act after another on The Finals stage, he didn’t drop into platitudes and praise, letting the acts know that their performances were not on a par with former attempts.
So, who will win it all? Going in, one would have thought that either Piff the Magic Dragon or ventriloquist Paul Zerdin would be a lock for the Season 10 win, but after their lackluster performances, they helped make it anybody’s million dollars to win. And yet, besides Stevie Star (the Professional Regurgitator) and The Craig Lewis Band, nobody really wowed the live audience as they had on previous shows. Still, it is difficult to see the Professional Regurgitator as the ultimate winner of “America’s Got Talent.” But if gets some of that split sympathy vote from Benton Blount and Drew Lynch, he might have enough to cough up a win.
Let’s say America comes to its collective sense (something the Top 10 finalists, simply by their presence in the Top 10, indicate might not happen) and the final four end up: The Craig Lewis Band, The Professional Regurgitator, Paul Zerdin, and Piff the Magic Dragon. (Note that three of the acts are from the United Kingdom, which in itself is a sad testament to American talent.) All are potential million-dollar acts worthy of a Las Vegas headlining show. But if one were to choose the act that would be the most Las Vegas-y, it would be Piff the Magic Dragon. (And how convenient for him — he already lives there.)
Tune and see who wins it all Wednesday night at 9 p.m. (EST) on NBC Television. The “America’s Got Talent” Season 10 finale results show also has scheduled appearances by Rachel Platten, Yolanda Adams, Penn & Teller, Terry Fator, Mat Franco, Freelusion, Jeff Ross, and Jimmy Fallon.