Howard Stern, left, Sharon Osbourne and Howie Mandel weigh in on "America's… (Virginia Sherwood/NBC )
With much self-created hype — A half-hour countdown show to a show that was itself two hours? Overkill, do you think? — "America's Got Talent"kicked off its live quarterfinal rounds Monday night, marking its big move to New York (New Jersey, really). Twelve acts paraded across the stage seeking to impress not only judges Howie Mandel, Sharon Osbourne and Howard Stern, but also the rest of us, who will vote on their fate.
It appears, if Stern were to have his way, that he and he alone would determine which four of these 12 acts will move on to the next round. The show's newest judge, who brayed at the outset of this first live show that he was "unedited" and "ready," pulled no punches in his critical assessments Monday, telling one poor musician who had the audacity not to impress him by playing instruments made from household objects that his act was "annoying" and his home (seen in a video pre-roll) looked "creepy." But more than that, Stern said he could almost guarantee that America wouldn't be voting for the guy. That just seemed mean. (Yes, Mandel said the fellow's vacuum-cleaner instrument "sucked," but somehow that cheap shot came off as lighter spirited and less cruel.)
That odd-instrument player, Michael Nejad, wasn't the only contestant Stern strongly weighed in on. Calling himself "America's judge," the shock jock also predicted the night's winners, which has, in the past, not been telegraphed so explicitly by the judges. Moving on, he said — over host Nick Cannon's protestations — would be performance painter David Garibaldi and his CMYKs, who this time out-earned a three-judge standing ovation by painting Mick Jagger — backward — to the strains of "Paint It Black." (Stern declared his love and said if he were a woman, he'd marry Garibaldi).
His other three picks to advance were:
Piano-playing, yarmulke-wearing 14-year-old singer Edon, who seemed not to know how to react when Mandel said that "from one to another … Jew are terrific," though he did answer in the affirmative when Cannon suggested that performing on the show was "better than puberty."
Heartwarming father/daughter singing duo Shanice and Maurice Hayes, whom one of the judges compared to Sonny and Cher.
And (best as I could tell, considering the cross-talk) the highly entertaining dancers the Scott Brothers, who offered up some very cool moves on Monday.
That was bad news for the following eight acts:
Down-on-their-luck, hardworking marching band Distinguished Men of Brass, who on live TV came off as musically sloppy, if precise dance-wise.
Campy magicians Jarrett & Raja, whose shower act was all wet.
Adorable 6-year-old tap dancer Lil Starr, who Mandel suggested would be "the next Shirley Temple."
Talking-dog ventriloquist Todd Oliver, who seemed to have a competitive advantage going in, but then lifted a leg on his chances with surprisingly lame material.
American BMX Stunt Team, who, no matter what Stern says, did well enough in a confined space to be a real contender for one of those four slots.
Singer Nikki Jensen, who sang well but got low marks from the judges for her not-so-dynamic performance style.
Puerto Rico's 787 Crew, who danced well (and didn't crash) but were deemed dull by Stern.
And the poor aforementioned instrument maker Nejad, who was buzzed by all three judges. (Not a good sign. Stern's right about that.)
Of course, as we were often reminded, it's the audience that will largely determine who advances from here. Which acts do you think deserve to go through?
'America's Got Talent' recap: Las Vegas, Day 1
'America's Got Talent' recap: 48 acts got lucky in Vegas
'America's Got Talent' recap: Things get rolling in Vegas on Day 2