‘America’s Got Talent’ review: Branden James, KriStef Brothers, Alexandria the Great in live show 1

America's Got TalentThis just in: “America’s Got Talent” is in Radio City Music Hall this year. Did you know that? Here’s a new drinking game for you: Take a sip every time you hear the name of the venue mentioned during the episode. Wait. Don’t. Even if you’re not drinking anything that will impair your judgment, you’ll fill up your bladder and miss part of the show.

Given how excellent this lineup looked on paper, we were genuinely shocked by how “meh” a good 70% of the acts were. We had letdowns, acts we knew would stink, and Nick Cannon putting on the KriStef Brothers’ jockstrap in a very weird moment.  The first half of these live rounds is always questionable, and you’re almost just better off watching the second part.

Anna Christine – Every year, we pound our head against our desk (which is probably why the desk is a little rickety) over America’s blatant favoritism for kid acts. Therefore, we were almost happy to see a kid act go first on the night, which is not exactly the “we love you” spot by producers. She did not have a great performance, though, and it was clear that being the first person to perform from this show on Radio City Music Hall (take another drink) was a little overwhelming for her. She sang off time, and that was enough to sink her.

Tellavision – First of all, these guys got double-screwed. We basically got an intro package after the performance, which was effectively worthless. They also seemed to be run in part by the love child of Bret Michaels and Kody Brown from “Sister Wives.” It is basically a really fancy PowerPoint presentation that has quite a bit of skill, and it is just a little too much like a hipster idea for an Apple TV commercial that we’d watch once, be impressed by and forget about it.

The American Hitmen – Terrible song choice for these guys. They are more Alice in Chains than they are Joe Cocker. And the gospel choir? Why can’t we have gospel music be gospel music, and old-school rock be just that? They still have a good shot at getting through, at least judging on their own story and screen time. Three performances in, and we find ourselves totally agreeing with Heidi Klum. What universe is this? Are we going to start quoting “Project Runway”-isms next?

Special Head – The best part of this entire pre-show package came when he unironically said that he has spent some time “battling pirates.” Apparently, he also lives in some sort of tricked-out short bus in the middle of the desert. The act itself is really just weird, and it’s his whole shtick and even his name that keeps us from actually taking it seriously. There is still one thing that we have to say about the judges’ criticism, though: Do you get on a singer for coming out and singing every time? What do you expect this guy to do other than some kind of levitation stunt? If he suddenly becomes a magic act, they get on him for that.

Fresh Faces – For Radio City Music Hall (drink), the lack of production value here was kind of shocking. It was some loosely-choreographed dance act somewhat disguised by Icona Pop and kids doing that annoying heart hand-sign that everyone is doing these days. As for Mel B using the Spice Girls comparisons, do any of these kids even know who the Spice Girls are?

Collins Key – Maybe we are in a super picky mood tonight, but this guy went from being a pretty-cool young magician to kind of annoying. There’s way too much insistence on the word “swag” in this segment, and he did mess up in his stage presence tonight by asking Mel something when he meant Heidi. With all of that being said (deep breath), we did really dig the trick tonight, and it was probably the only act thus far that even remotely had a place on this stage. It was nice to see the worlds of social media and magic actually combined and turned into something.

Kevin Downey Jr. – “I like to sleep with Amish women, because I can’t call them the next day.” That was a great joke. This guy is very funny. Weird? Definitely, and it’s increasingly hard to be a comedian in a society where we are offended by literally everything because we have an ax to grind about our own lives.

Aaralyn & Izzy – Since when is screaming talent? We don’t like that producers subjected some screaming child to this show effectively as a joke. There’s no way that she was going to get through to the next round, and there never was. It was just an excuse to have something weird on the show, and the strangest part is that we couldn’t even understand the singing when she wasn’t even shouting. In putting them on the show, you gave them confidence! Then, you strip it away by having them get roasted.

Alexandria the Great – There is something pretty incredible about what she can do, and there is probably a part of the amazing-ness of this act that is brought on by the fact that this is a woman in her fifties that is doing something that men half her age would be terrified to do. Is there anything else she can do beyond cool water escapes? It’s hard to say, but for a one-trick pony, this one trick is far and away better than what most of what everyone else brought us.

Kristef Brothers – The best act of this kind we have ever seen. They are skilled at what they do, but the truth is that we’ve seen a dozen or so of these acts over the years, and they do the same stuff over and over again. These guys are not only amazing at what they do, but they’re funny and they have a big personality! These guys could actually be something after the show if given the opportunity to do so.

Hype – We feel bad for Hype going on the show when they did. Had they been a part of the first half of the show, they would have been amazing, all-over-the-place entertainment. Unfortunately, this is a symptom of going after someone who blew the roof off of the place: The dance was very good, but not as creative or wacky as the first time. They’ve almost become too concentrated on not having props, and that is the last thing that we’d ever expect to see about a dance act.

Branden James – How original. The tenor goes at the end of the show; and, he sings Josh Groban. A stellar voice, but could the show try to promote someone who is not a singer for a change? There’s no sense really worrying about much of Branden’s odds in this competition. He is going to get through to the next round without a problem, if for no other reason thanks to his story. We appreciate what he is overcome, but we do hope at some point the show can focus on a little bit more of his talent rather than just the part of his life that tears us up.

Who was your favorite “America’s Got Talent” act tonight, and do you think that we will (ugh) continue to be reminded that we are in Radio City Music Hall for the rest of the season? Just for the sake of comparison, click here if you want to see where we ranked the acts before the show.

Photo: NBC

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