Tom Cotter, Nick Cannon, Joe Castillo and William Close on "America's… (NBC )
This week, "America's Got Talent," the only place on television left for freaks and oddballs that doesn't demand they have some strange addiction or possess a nickname like "Honey Boo Boo," gave in to the regular guys. Too many of the show's strangest semi-finalists got sent home.
Host Nick Cannon explained that this time they would "announce the results differently," which meant this first group of 12 semi-finalists got put into groups of three and then the results were revealed to each group.
Once cut down to four, it would be up to judges Howard Stern, Sharon Osbourne, and Howie Mandel, to eliminate one of the four, sending the other three to the finals.
This was also a results show which meant time-killing guests! And as if to get it out of the way as soon as possible, comedian Steve Harvey came up and did some jokes about the contestants and plugged his new talk show.
As the competition begins to come into focus, these spruced-up commercials -- for a Broadway show, a middling band, whatever -- are maddening.
The first three up to for elimination were Turf, Joe Castillo, and the Scott Brothers. Howard Stern, who might be losing his mind live on the air, said these acts were "similar" and of the "same kind of voting reference" which doesn't even make sense as a series of words.
Castillo got through. When he was asked how he felt about it, he said, "sand-sational." Get it? Because he makes images out of sand?
Next, was Andrew De Leon, William Close, and Academy of Villains. Howie, who crowbarred in some more promotion for his Twitter -- easily the best running gag on the show -- said these were all three of his three favorites.
William Close went on the finals, which shouldn't be a surprise -- he's been a favorite to win the thing almost from the start. Bummer about De Leon, though.
Donovan and Rebecca, Todd Oliver, and Edon were next. Inexplicably, it went to Todd Oliver. Clearly people love him and his adorable dog Irving, but his jokes are stale and his persona is just generally like, clammy and awkward. Edon was robbed!
The second diversion from the competition was Neon Trees who performed "Everybody Talks," which sounds like the Strokes gone Vegas, and along with Gotye, fun., and Foster the People, fits into this "polite rock that's ready for the radio" trend being foisted upon us as some answer to mindless dance.
The last group of contestants were Tom Cotter, Bria Kelly, and Eric Dittelman. Cotter went through, which makes sense -- he's an accomplished, charming comedian -- but the end of Dittelman mania (Dittelmania?) is nothing short of a tragedy. Not really. But he will be missed, nonetheless.
That meant the four were Joe Castillo, William Close, Todd Oliver, and Tom Cotter. Close and Cotter got through, which left it up to the judges to pick either Castillo or Oliver.
When asked to defend themselves, Oliver stammered some platitudes about how much people like his act. Castillo? Well, he totally threw Oliver under the bus, pretty much scoffing at the idea of a ventriloquist going through instead of an innovative guy who plays in the sand like himself.
What happened to last night's love your brother and one another right now stuff? What is this guy's deal? He's like the some jerk who cuts you off and gives you the finger in the Whole Foods parking lot but has a "coexist" bumper sticker on his car.
Howard picked Todd Oliver and Sharon picked Joe, of course, leaving the tiebreaker up to Howie, who ultimately went with Castillo. Despite poor sportsmanship, Castillo deserves it more than Oliver.
Prediction: One of those impossibly crappy straight-to-DVD kids movies starring Oliver and his dog Irving will be staring you down in a RedBox in six months or less.
Next week, the second semi-finals, featuring a far less compelling group:
Clogging good ol' boys All That!; the BMX spectacle that is All Wheel Sports; parrot guy Clint Carvahlo; musical painters David Garibaldi and His CMYKs; self-deprecating comedian Jacob Williams; "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"-meets-a-puppet-show crew Lightwire Theater.
As well as glorified cruise ship magician the Magic of Puck; elaborate dog trick act Olate Dogs; Sebastien "El Charro de Oro" who doesn't even need a pithy description he's so awesome; dad and daughter singing team Maurice and Shanice Hayes; Joe Cocker-sounding crooner Tim Hockenberry; and The Untouchables ... another dance group.