America’s Got Talent Season 16 kicked off with the live quarterfinals on Tuesday (after a three-week hiatus while NBC aired the Summer Olympics), and near the top of the two-hour episode host Terry Crews announced that although 36 acts usually AGTlive shows, this year the judges could presumably only agree on 35 – and so left it up to viewers to select the final entrant, via a sort of wildcard special streaming on Peacock.
It wasn’t clear if this was real because Simon Cowell’s Golden Buzzer Act, singer-songwriter Nightbirde, unfortunately had to pull out at the last minute to focus on her battle with cancer. But of the five acts vying for that 36th spot, three were solo singers, all of whom I assumed had a good chance of making the cut — child prodigy musician Dylan Zangwill, ex-Rock Star Supernova powerhouse Storm Large and crooner Matt Mauser (the family man whose woman died in Kobe Bryant helicopter crash) — along with magician Patrick Kun and prankster Mike Goodwin.
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Surprisingly, however, there was one participant who did go straight to live shows – and joined on Tuesday without having to languish in a Peacock purgatory like the aforementioned, arguably much more talented hopefuls – was novelty act Sethward.
Costumed Gag Comedian Sethward Tried For AGT repeatedly before making it through on his fourth attempt this season – despite getting a red X from Simon before he even started – by dressing up as some sort of wardrobe-defective peacock. (Hey, whatever it takes to synergistically promote NBC’s sister streaming service, right?) This week he appeared (on the background music of Katy Perry’s “Peacock, of course”) looking like a peacock on steroids, with a ridiculous stage-width span. It then suffered a Spinal Tap-style pyrotechnic failure and caught fire, before rising like a literal phoenix from the ashes of the stagehands’ fire extinguishers.
It was a little amusing, if only for a few seconds—although Simon barely lasted that long, hitting his red X button almost immediately in irritation. And while Sethward had some vocal fans on Twitter, he certainly wasn’t a potentially million dollar act worthy of being in the top 36 than, say, Storm Large, whose audition Simon had adored. Come on, did the judges? real choose to let this bird brain continue?
“It’s amazing how he’s able to make nothing out of so much,” quipped dazed and confused judge Howie Mandel, before blatantly adding: “For me, this is the ultimate promo for my documentary. Start streaming tonight. on peacock!”
“I laughed, but I’m not sure what,” Heidi Klum said. “I’m so glad you finally came here, because it was your biggest dream. Now you’re here on the live show and I’m happy for you… but I didn’t get it.”
Simon, of course, wasn’t even pretending to be happy for Sethward, grumbling, “It was absolutely horrible. We can now officially call the show America has no talent.”
However, Sethward remained undaunted and proudly said to Terry: “Listen, it’s really hard to get on this podium. It takes a lot of guts. If I can do it, you can too!”
Well, hopefully Dylan, Storm or Matt can get on the AGT stage eventually. But when and if they do, they’ll face stiff competition this singer-tough season, namely from Jimmie Herrod, this week’s pimp spot artist (and judge Sofia Vergara’s Golden Buzzer pick). From the moment Jimmie started a cappella, this song stylist stunned with his clear, pure falsetto voice on the fanciful Willy Wonka classic “pure imagination.” This was theatre, and this was magic. Simon said to Jimmie, “You’re one of those singers – unlike a lot of people on these shows that you forget the next day – that you’ll never forget this performance. You will never forget this voice. And I mean this as a compliment: you’re an artist I see going straight to Broadway.”
So, on Wednesday’s live results, seven of this week’s quarter-finalists will advance to the semi-finals, and I think Jimmie is a shoo-in, while Sethward certainly isn’t. As for the other six contestants I predict, they’re edgy stand-up comic Kabir Singh, animal act Canine Stars, 10-year-old balladeer Peter Rosalita, quirky singer-songwriter Madilyn Bailey, daredevil escape artist Matt Johnson, and either harmony trio. 1aChord of bluegrass/hip-hop band Gangsta Grass – while second-rate magician Dustin Tavella, Alyssa Edwards-backed dance company Beyond Belief and another comedian, Gina Brillin, are likely to head home.
Until then, if hopefully the voting public is right and this series can be mentioned again America’s Got Talent.
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