It turns out The World’s Best isn’t. Its premiere following the Super Bowl on Sunday garnered only a little more than 22 million viewers. That’s 18 percent less than This Is Us earned last year in the same coveted spot, despite The World’s Best having even more people trying to make you cry. Maybe it’ll do better tonight, when people aren’t in a Hot Pockets Snackers stupor.
Tonight we’ll see two hours of acts that defy both belief and your mom when she told you not to do something just because everyone else is. Performers from several countries are represented, employing so many interpreters that the president can claim a 17 percent increase in jobs for Q2. The acts include singers, acrobats, and James Corden trying to be funny while saddled with terrible material.
The host opens the show by reminding us that the prize is a million buckeroos, and every act is so good, it’s like trying to choose the best Judge Judy case. First we must return to the underwater escape artist, Matt Johnson, who had yet to find the final key among 20 that will unlock the water-filled tank.
The tension is so thick it makes Drew Barrymore faux-wipe her brow. As the camera circles the plexiglas tank, we almost get a glimpse of plumber’s crack. But of course he finds the key, opens the padlock through two armholes in the lid, and leaps from the water to thundering applause, as triumphant as Flipper after he rescues a drowning child. It looks like Corden would have a harder time escaping from his ill-fitting suit.
Does he get a high enough score to move on? The American judges give him an average 45. Five points off for scaring his insurance company. France’s judge calls it “ahmahzink, boot noot arteesteek,” so it’s a non. I forgive him because he’s gorgeous. Otherwise, Johnson is in like Fleent.
Next is a group of singers called Naturally 7. They make cool, instrumental sounds with their voices, then the silken-toned singing begins. It’s cool, it’s hip, it’s smooth as glass. If Frenchy doesn’t find this arteesteek, he’s fou. Still, it’s kind of disappointing not to have any crap acts to laugh at. A little William Hung here and there brightens things up. N-7 gets enough points from the pods to continue.
Now, from Germany, comes Dundu, a light-up marionette that requires five people, all presumably German, to operate. Dundu is bald, with moveable joints and no genitals, much like my ex. The performance is very understated, with the New Age tinkly music and gentle movements. If it must be puppets, I prefer the Von Trapp Family’s Lonely Goatherd show. Nevertheless, The Giants of Light—Con Edison wishes it had thought of that one—earn a total of 97 points. (50 from Drew Barrymore, 45 from Ru Paul and 48 from Faith Hill). Corden shames the one judge who said no, pretending to send him away, probably just to showcase his kilt and leather jacket ensemble.
From Guinea arrives a guy who plays soccer every day. He might be best at something more lucrative if he got a job. Iya Traoré’s whole shtick is manipulating a soccer ball with various parts of his buff body. This act does not measure up to a one-armed violinist, but Iya gets kudos for showmanship. Based on his silent reactions, I assume RuPaul has never won a poker game. With scores in the 30’s from all three US judges, Iya ends up with a 64 total, and must return to entertaining people outside the Starbucks.
Italy sends us a singing nun, Sister Cristina Scuccia. She wants a top-ten hit like that pop version of The Lord’s Prayer by an Australian nun that was big in the 70’s. Even Jews loved that. Sis Cris sings I Was Born this Way in English, sounding like Olivia Newton-John and bopping with back-up dancers like she’s studied video clips of Soul Train. Now I like seeing a nun having fun as much as the next person, but it seems inappropriate for her to be covering Lady Gaga in a calf-length habit and sensible shoes. Afterwards, she tells Corden there will be paradise for everyone, but only if she gets at least 75 points. The American judges anoint her with 41, while the rest come through to make it 78 in total. Since she wasn’t that good a singer, I suspect some of them are bearing false witness.
Next comes a magician, Justin Flom, a.k.a. the King of Cards. That’s kind of a boring name. Maybe Duke of the Deck or Count Jackula would be better. He’s from the US, so we may have already run the gamut of global talent. He deals out shuffled cards to turn up numbers and phrases that match the lyrics of the accompanying soundtrack, including the queen for the ABBA hit and the iconic phone number 867-5309. Unique and fun, but he’s going to run out of songs with numbers and suits in them. He earned a 49 from the American judges and 95 with the Wall of the World.
A team of Chinese acrobats, Duo Suining, follows. Everything is painted gold with these guys, like Trump’s bathroom fixtures. They each balance on one hand on tiny platforms and stacked boxes. Everyone gasps as one guy single-handstands up and down a set of tiny gold steps. If nothing else, these guys can open your pickle jars. RuPaul declares it to be artistry, while Faith wonders how they got their cores so strong. Probably it took more than a couple of mornings a week at Crunch. They go through, despite one sneering judge who feels they’re not the world’s best single-handstanders. I defy him to find even one other single-handstander, even dressed all in silver. He earned a 46 from the American judges and 91 with the Wall of the World.
Our next act is from India. Young Lydian Nadhaswaram, who plays classical music, has a head of hair that puts 1970’s Neil Diamond to shame. His sequinned jacket puts 2000’s Neil Diamond to shame. The kid plays The Flight of the Bumblebee, then invites Drew to the stage to set the metronome to an incredible speed, and plays the music to that. Then he plays it again even faster. Some lucky woman is going to grab this kid the second he’s of legal age. But the judges feel he lost the soul of the music by making it sound like a 45 single of Your Cheatin’ Heart played at 78. He earned a 41 from the American judges and 85 with the Wall of the World.
Next is a quick recap of some other acts, including a contortionist (91 points), an upside-down performance that I can’t understand the point of (69 points), and a hypnotist dog who must really mess up the mailman’s schedule. The dog went home, leaving a bunch of passed-out people on the stage like a night at Studio 54 (41 points).
Now for a tightrope act. Jade Kindar-Martin’s different because he does a headstand in the middle of his walk, then sets the tightrope on fire for the return trip. That’s often how my GPS makes me feel. RuPaul suggests he do it in drag. Now that would be a show. Jade only gets 71 points, though. Needs more cowbell. He earned a 35 from the American judges.
They saved the best of the world’s best for last, reports Corden. That’s singer Dimash Kudaibergen from Kazakhstan, whose name is hard to fit on a marquee. His range is indeed remarkable, veering from Pavarotti to Josh Groban to Tiny Tim. The show is so excited about his performance, they set the accompanying piano on fire. Their liability premiums must be astronomical. The American judges are impressed, Faith especially so, since she only has a range from Carrie Underwood to Reba McEntire. Dimash gets 50 points from each of them, as would be expected. Hyperbole, thy name is talent competition shows. His total is 98, though. Denmark does not want to reach detente.
Next week is the final round of auditions, including a lady in a white gown on an all-white set. At least nothing is on fire.