America’s Got Talent returns to NBC tonight for season 17 with Simon Cowell, Howie Mandel, Heidi Klum and Sofia Vergara on the judges panel. Terry Crews hosts. See the new acts vying for the 1 million dollar prize and a headlining show in Las Vegas.
The show opens with a weird take on Raiders of the Lost Ark…or something. A young Simon catches a glimpse of his future, and he doesn’t like it…HE LOVES IT! Oy. Next, it’s a preview of the season 17 acts which are BIGGER AND BETTER THAN EVAH! Once the judges settle in, Simon turns to the crowd to say hello. Remember last season’s fake Covid audience? Fun times.
The Pack Drumline – Chicago drumline
The funky looking group is from Chicago, Illinois, and they are there to represent. The group started in 2014 as an at-risk afterschool program. The leader is very very excited to meet Simon. The group incorporates hip hop moves and music into their drumming. They are amateur and unpolished, but have a lot of heart. Sofia calls them an “amazing show.” Heidi calls it “sexy.” She loved the choreography. Howie feels their hearts. “Your hearts are pounding all over this room…I love you.” Simon calls it original and dynamic. “This is what this show is all about.” – 4 yeses
XOMG Pop – Singing Group discovered by JoJo Siwa and mom
As the girls take the stage to perform, JoJo Siwa, who founded the group with her mom, is backstage to cheer them on. The synergy: The group is a product of the E! competition show, Siwas Dance Pop Revolution. NBC and E! share the same parent company, Universal. Currently, however, JoJo is a judge on the FOX dance competition, So You Think You Can Dance. The costumes are very very colorful, and the girls hyper-energetic. “We are excited to perform FOR YOU!” one says. They sing an original song “Candy Hearts.” It’s very Kidz Bop with choreography, “girl power” with a side of Saturday morning cartoons. I need to visit a dentist y’all.
Howie thinks they need to tour. “This is everything and more,” says Heidi. “Every little girl in America is going to go crazy when they see you.” Simon trots out the ole “I didn’t like it…I loved it.” He calls them a little mini explosion. – 4 yeses
Mervant Vera – Rapping Magician
33 year old Mervant is from Philadelphia. He’s been watching AGT on TV for years and dreams of having a show in Vegas. His grandmother was a huge support and carried him through difficult times. He starts off with a deck of cards. As he deals them, he begins to rap. As he pulls off a card, he sings about them, and also shouts out out to the judges and Terry. There isn’t a ton of magic going on here. But the rapping is fun? “It was a first for me,” says Sophia. “I had the best time watching you,” says Heidi. Simon calls it incredible. Simon wishes he had auditioned before. Howie calls it one of the best magic acts he’s seen. OK then. 4 yeses
Lee Collinson – Singer
Lee is from England. He hopes to quit his job, putting up fences. It’s his first trip to America. He sings “Better Days” by Dermot Kennedy. The song is personal, because he lost somebody in Covid-19 in lockdown. He doesn’t play an instrument. The verse is very “speaky” but on the chorus he displays a very pretty tenor and a nice tone with decent range and good phrasing. He seemed very nervous initially. Simon is on his feet first. Howie says he “raised the roof” in the house. “You nailed it” says Heidi. Sofia thinks he has a beautiful personality and voice. Simon thinks he’s charming, humble and likeable. “You don’t even know how good you are.” They call his mum in England so she can listen in on the verdict. – 4 yeses
David Litchman – Pepino the Mini-Horse
Pepino is adorable as he waves his little hoof at the judges. But right off the bat, he’s not doing what his trainer asks him to do. “I think he’s a little shy because he’s interested in Heidi.” There’s a chair next to a photo of Heidi, so she’s part of the bit. It takes some coaxing, but he finally sits, but not for long. There’s a basketball net set up that never gets used. Pepino is obviously spooked by the lights, noise and crowd. Sads – NO
Burning Joe – Fire Act
He introduces himself as a singer. His cover of “Eternal Flame” stinks, so Simon buzzes him. But as he sings, his crooning becomes literal, setting himself on fire until his entire back side is in flames. He picks up a fork with marshmallows for roasting. He gets more buzzes. When he’s totally on fire, Heidi begins freaking out. Stage hands enter to hose Joe off with extinguishers. Simon calls it “bad barbeque, and says it gives him an idea for a new show “when you’re not very good we just set fire to you.” Wasn’t that AGT: Extreme? Badabump. NO
April, Sarah and Friends
It’s goat yoga y’all. Fun fact: April and Sarah raced on The Amazing Race season 30 and finished in eighth place. The goats are very cute, but like the horse act, the scene is very chaotic. The goats aren’t playing. After they say NO, Heidi and Sofia make off with the cutest little goats. NO
Jack Grady – Magician
Jack is very nervous to meet Simon. He has such high hopes, but after reciting a poem about changing a bottle to a glass and sticking it up his a–, Heidi buzzes him furiously. Jack looks so disappointed. “That’s a long trip from Ohio to LA to last 30 seconds,” quips Simon. NO.
Ben Lapidus – Singer-songwriter
The Doylestown, Pennsylvania native found a ukulele in his guitar as a kid. His dad died unexpectedly when he was six. He used songwriting to work through his feelings. He’s performing an original song on guitar. Right now he sound designs podcasts. He’s singing about parmesan cheese. I guess he’s a comedian. He wants more parmesan. “Why are they so stingy.” Complaining about Italian restaurants. The judges are not impressed. The buzzers go off. But Ben is undeterred. He keeps singing. The crowd boos. “I don’t like parmesan, I don’t like your song,” says Simon. The crowd begins chanting “PARMESAN.” They were booing first though. Ben begins singing again and now the crowd is with him, swaying and singing. Now, Simon is laughing. The judges take their Xs away, except for Howie. That bit was SO SET UP c’mon – 3 yeses, Howie says no
Celia Munoz – Ventriloquist
Celia was previewed earlier, and her act is very unique. She was a golden buzzer and eventual winner of Spain’s Got Talent in 2021. The 36 year old is a trained opera singer who switched to ventriloquism. Season 2 winner Terry Fator and then season 12 champ Darci Lynne inspired her to pursue the craft. What’s different about her act is she doesn’t use a puppet. Celia throws her voice to a radio and a telephone. She sings, talks, sings some more, seamlessly and quickly transitioning to different voices. She sits in front of a vanity mirror flossing, brushing and applying makeup. The phone rings, and she has a conversation. It seems so real.
“Bravo!” shouts Sofia. “That was so different than anything we’ve ever seen.” Heidi calls the lack of a “weird puppet” refreshing. “You just turned the dial to eleven,” says Howie. Simon calls it the “best original” ventriloquism the show has ever seen. – 4 yeses
Veranica & Her Incredible Friends – Dog Act
The trainer is from Florida and lives on a farm with a ton of animals. She’s only 12 years old. So far, her animals seem well trained and not nervous. Her dogs are small and large poodles who do the usual dog tricks. She jump ropes with one of the little poodles. The big dog helps her with the jump rope. So cute! Dancing poodles! THE DOGGOS EVEN DO QUICK CHANGE. Ok. that’s cool. Simon is delighted. He loves the puppers. Sofia calls it “amazing.” Howie calls it “dazzling…you surprised us.” Heidi calls it “adorable.” Simon says “They are so so smart!” 4 yeses
Mike E Winfield – Comedian
He’s been telling jokes for 15 years. He is married and has a family. He starts off with jokes about “older moms” He confesses that he married an older woman. “It’s cool being a parent to a kid close to your age. I call him step-man.” OK then. He’s mildly amusing. Step Mike and Step Man. He moves on to terrible day jobs. “Why don’t they fire you when you hate your job?” The judges and crowd give him a standing ovation. “They love you!” says Sofia. Howie calls him memorable and authentic. Heidi calls him “fantastic” and “his face is so cute.” Simon thinks he has star quality. – 4 yeses
Shu Takada – Yoyo Performer
The Yoyo helped him become a more outgoing person. AGT is his biggest dream! He came all the way from Japan to audition. He wants to headline his own show. Simon is already expecting his act to be boring. However, his performance is very energetic, and it helps that he puts his whole body into it. He doesn’t just do Yoyo tricks. He incorporates jumps, splits backflips and more. His smile is infectious. Simon says, “We weren’t expecting that!” Howie says, “You made the Yoyo cool, fun, you are a dancer.” Sofia calls him a “cool guy.” Simon likes his personality. “I love acts like this.” They all say YO. – 4 yeses
Avery Dixon – Saxophonist – Terry Crews Golden Buzzer
The Atlanta native’s mom signed him up. Avery still doesn’t believe in himself. He picked up the saxophone in elementary school after the kids started bullying him for his raspy voice and look. The kids called him “hammerhead.” The 21 year old has knots on his head after being born premature at 1 lb 8 oz. Because of the prematurity, his vocal cords don’t close all the way. The bullying got so bad, he considered suicide. Learning music saved him. Also, where he lives with his family, the neighbors call the cops when he tries to practice. He’s very nervous at first. He plays “Try a Little Tenderness” and indeed he’s accomplished, and very soulful. He cries as the crowd cheers.
Howie says “You’re supposed to be here. You will change the world.” Heidi thinks he plays with his heart. Avery begins sobbing. Sofia says, “America is going to fall in love with you.” Simon calls his bullies “idiots.” Terry is very emotional he rushes out “THERE’S NO NEED TO VOTE!” he smashes the Golden Buzzer.” He says “You tell every bully that you have a big brother named Terry Crews..who’s got your back.”
A golden buzzer means the recipient will go straight to the live shows. All four judges and Terry get a Golden Buzzer. Last season the show also did a group buzzer.
Best acts of the night were Celia Munoz, Veranica & Her Incredible Friends, Shu Takada the Yoyo dude. Avery Dixon is a solid musician, but man that Golden Buzzer segment was over the top, even by AGT standards.