Clint Carvalho performs with Kitten, one of his Extreme Parrots, on "America's… (Virginia Sherwood / NBC )
Now that the Olympic athletes have packed up their shiny medals and left NBC to its regular programming, "America's Got Talent" has returned to our TV screens. But Tuesday night's performance show wasn't completely business as usual for the variety talent competition. It was the annual YouTube Snapple episode, in which a dozen contenders plucked from YouTube -- based, at least in part, on audience vote -- compete for a spot in the semifinals.
"Tonight, the search for talent goes viral," we were told at the top of the show. A more accurate statement might have been "Tonight, the search for talent goes downhill."
While a handful of the acts, plucked from varying levels of obscurity, turned in polished, if not particularly inspiring performances, others were, in polite "AGT" judge parlance a bit "green." Others were so bad or boring that the judges wondered whether a YouTube show was such a great idea after all. Only one -- the last one, if you hung in there that long -- seemed to truly excite the judges, but it's an open question as to whether even that act was really on par with the performers who'd made it through to the semifinals via the usual audition process.
Certainly there didn't seem to be another Jackie Evancho, the pint-sized singer who finished second on Season 5 and went on to great success after making her debut on that season's YouTube show.
You might reason that what these performers lacked in talent they made up for in earnestness and enthusiasm. Then again, you might not.
The best acts of the night included …
Clint Carvalho & His Extreme Parrots: This professional bird trainer impressed the judges with an outdoor-indoor stunt in which his cockatoo, Kitten, whom he called the "Evel Kneivel of parrots," flew off a nearby building and into the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, as he called "Here, Kitty, Kitty, Kitty." The bird zoomed down from the building's roof, through the theater's open doors, over the audience and judges, and straight to Carvalho. Impressive enough, but what will this guy and his feathered friends do for an encore, if they make it through? Is Kitten a one-trick parrot? Carvalho chirpily assured the judges that he had stunts "different, but equal" to the one he'd shown them. Depending on how the audience votes, we'll see what other tricks he has waiting in the wings.
Eric Buss: This quirky tinkerer gave me my only laugh of the night, joyously releasing what looked like giant French fries from a series of weird contraptions, synched to music in a sort of choreographed, controlled chaos. I thought Buss' impish charm was undeniable (Nick Cannon seemed to like it, too), but the judges denied it. Howard Stern called Buss' act "a colossal waste of time" and "boring." "The only thing you managed to do is make a mess of my stage," he bemusedly chided. I mean, maybe the guy was no Kinetic King, but he wasn't that bad.
The Magic of Puck: This cruise-ship magician did a cute thing with a dancing hanky. The judges rightly approved of it, but noted that to continue further in the competition, this illusionist would have to conjure up a trick that was bigger, flashier and splashier. Otherwise, his shot at the big time (and dry land) might disappear. (Poof!)
Bria Kelly: This teenaged country singer stepped things up with a heartfelt, if slightly stiff, version of "Gunpowder and Lead." And while Sharon Osbourne thought she might have gotten just a tad bit shouty, here and there, Howie Mandel declared her to be the "standout" of the evening thus far. They were both right, but we'll see if Kelly will be able to stand out in the wider "America's Got Talent" talent pool.
Academy of Villains: Clearly the judges' very favorite act of the night -- Mandel said the show had saved the best for last -- this dance crew managed to pack a lot of visual interest into its 90-second time slot. The judges seemed to conclude that finding this one act had justified the entire evening. That's debatable.
Lesser lights included unimpressive rock band Reverse Order, creepy-dull magician (and Marilyn Manson roomie?) Rudy Coby, yawn-inducing dancers 7 in Unison, cute-boy singer/strummer Drew Erwin, disappointingly unfunny comedian Melinda Hill, icky air guitarist Romeo Dance Cheetah, and masked bell player Cast in Bronze.
Unless the girls vote Erwin through based on his looks, I bet it will be Carvalho, Puck, Kelly and Academy of Villains that move on to the semifinals.
But the bigger question is: Do you think "America's Got Talent" YouTube competition is a big waste of time? Please weigh in.
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