To say that the second set of a dozen performances in the "America's Got Talent" Season 9 Top 48 was underwhelming when compared to those in Week 1 would be an understatement, but it would be a somewhat appropriate description. There were a few redeeming acts but, for the most part, it looked as though Radio City Music Hall, and perhaps New York City itself, swallowed up the other competitors. And one act simply got under Judge Howard Stern's skin, so much so he turned his back to the stage and let his butt provide his opinion.
Jessica Iannetta at The Star-Ledger noted Aug. 5 that "featured a much weaker field of contestants, which resulted in a much less competitive night." Iannetta also pointed out that two of the acts, comedian Darik Santos and skate-dancer Juan Carlos, did not really deserve to be in the Top 48. And on the latter finalist, Judge Howard Stern agreed.
Juan Carlos descended from the ceiling of Radio City Music Hall in a skintight gold suit, hit the stage rolling to Madonna's "Vogue." If comedian Andy Kaufman had returned and put on skates, he might have created a routine much in the same vein as that performed by Juan Carlos. (Kaufman, of course, was known for his low-brow comedy.) Judge Howie Mandel called Juan Carlos an "acquired taste," but most likely meant that those who found him talented actually might be tasteless.
Howard Stern hit his buzzer, giving Juan Carlos the only "X" of the season to date. While Howie Mandel and Judge Mel B. were howling with laughter, Judge Howard was throwing up his hands in disgust and pacing around the judges panel. By the time the 90 seconds was over and host Nick Cannon was prepared to receive the judges' critiques, Howard had turned his back to the stage, showing Juan Carlos and Nick his backside.
Although all the other judges raved and said they enjoyed Juan Carlos' act, Howard, reseated, said he had a problem not only with Juan Carlos performing (because he should have never made the Top 48, something he blamed on Mel B. and Howie) but with his fellow judges and their over-the-top guffawing and "forced" laughter.
As for Juan Carlos, his perpetual look of haughty surprise wasn't enough to shame Howard to silence.
Besides Juan Carlos' odd performance and Judge Howard's dramatic show of displeasure with it, the musical acts did nothing to excite, either. In fact, they all -- Mara Justine, Jaycob Curlee, and Livy, Matt & Sammy -- sounded as if someone had forgot to turn the amps up high enough to project out into Radio City Music Hall. The only musical act that could be said to not sound as if they were performing at a distance was Acte II, the opera duo, and their song choice, Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You," was simply dreadful, although the judges didn't seem to notice.
Loop Rawlins, the rope-trick cowboy, was a bit off with his dual whip trick, the flaming whips barely holding their anemic flames as he snapped them about.
Comedian Darik Santos' stylings tended a bit too much toward the punny.
Even the two dance acts, Hart Dance Team and John and Andrew, seemed just slightly off their mark. It could be said that the dancers were the best performances of the show, though. But that wouldn't give justice to the hand balancer Andrey Moraru, whose balancing and movements were simply grace personified. Judge Howard said in his critique that if Andrey didn't get voted through, "America's Got Talent" was "a sham."
Another good -- but not as good as the audition -- was Aerial Animation. The teacher-turned-aerial-acrobat told a story set under the sea and on horseback. The act is rather unique and visually stunning.
And then there was Mat Franco, the magician. He went with what got him there -- another card trick. And although the first trick, guessing Mel B's card was a clever trick, the second, having Howie pull the card he had guessed (wrong) out of his back pants pocket was a bit much. He hadn't got near Howie nor touched the famed germaphobe. The card was an obvious plant and took away from Franco's very obvious skill at prestidigitation and misdirection.
So, three good acts, eight ho-hum performances, and one routine memorable only for the fit Howard Stern through on live television.
Who's going through? That's up to America, but odds are Juan Carlos won't be one of the five chosen. The results reveal of the second set of five finalists moving on to the Semifinals occurs Wednesday night beginning at 9 p.m. (EST).
"America's Got Talent" airs on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on NBC Television.