Not Much of America's Got Talent

"The biggest talent show in the world" is into the live performance shows, which is both good and bad. Fortunately, the producers have scaled up people's acts to fit a Vegas-type stage... unfortunately, many of them don't deserve to be there. Like, say, the first five acts that got cut tonight.

To recap, the first act cut was Ronnie B, who demonstrated a minor bit of weird "wacky foreigner" charm in the auditions, but showed his true colors as
a sub-William Hung embarrassment last night. Next to pack his bags was a magician named Shimshi, who chose, strangely, to downgrade his act from sawing a woman into several parts to a card trick-slash-backflip. And toodle-oo to the DC Cowboys, an posse of middle-aged gay cowboy dancers. America then opted for brilliant tenor Neal E. Boyd as opposed to a Derrick Barry, a cross-dressing Britney Spears impersonator. And then host Jerry Springer manufactured some faux tension by having each judge name who they wanted to go on: The James Gang, an interesting if occasionally underwhelming blend of hip-hop and vaudeville or Elite, a little girl who dresses her dad and his friends up as pirates and pretends to beat them up. Tough call, huh?

Surviving until next week (in addition to Boyd and the James Gang) were Jessica Price, a sweet countryish girl who'd prolly be a better fit for American Idol, Extreme Dance FX, an unfortunately titled troupe who perform about as poorly as their name, and The Cadence, a Blue Man-type drum act that isn't, well, blue.

Now, to break down the rest of the "talent:"
  • Beyond Belief proved that being the twenty-one best dancers in Mesquite, TX doesn't amount to much in, you know, the real world
  • Paul Solas knocked out his version of "My Way," which was tremendously endearing and won over the judges, altho I think he's a better raconteur than singer
  • Brutally bad Kazual demonstrated why no one's particularly interested Boyz II Men type groups anymore
  • Next was Zooperstars!, a bizarre band of inflatable mascots that have a strangely engaging charm, if not a ton of actual talent
  • Mini-von Trapp family castoffs The Wright Kids abandoned their bluegrass roots to cute their way through a nightmarishly psychedelic rendition of Daydream Believer
  • One-joke loser Jonathon Arons performed his "I'm a dork with a trombone that tries to drop some sexy dance moves on ya'll" act, much to the delight (inexplicably) of the judges
  • Iraq War veteran Daniel Jens soldiered on (sorry, couldn't resist) put away his uniform to bring out his version of "Every Breathe You Take," which proved that without the war story, he's unfortunately an ok bar singer... at best
  • The Slippery Kittens performed a Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B burlesque, apparently in an effort to officially retire the term "milf"
  • George the Giant, who had primarily carved out a niche as a seven-foot version of Jackass, bored the judges (and I'd wager the national audience) with schtick about escaping from a straight jacket while being mistaken for a pinata by a bunch of annoying kids and their schoolmarm
  • Queen Emily closed the show by rearing back and belting an Aretha Franklin-style inspirational; good stuff, altho I'm less impressed than the judges
So. After the first half of the top forty have taken the stage, nothing's changed since the first time I've watched the show – at this point, it's Boyd's competition to lose. Stay tuned to see if anyone can topple this tenor. Or, you know – don't... I'll take care of it for you ;)


Best. Ads. Ever?

OMFG! I spose the VWs, Nikes and Absoluts of the world might say otherwise, but I'll give the CW this: they know what to do when reviewers give them lemons. Make lemonade... sweet, hot, sexy lemonade. And pour it all over some nearly naked twentysomethings.

Season 1's out on DVD and Season 2 starts next week. Tune in and turn on.



Who Watches the Watchmen?

iTunes users, apparently. The landmark comic series has debuted as what Warner Bros. calls a "Motion Comic," meaning they've brought the story to life with animated art and voiceover narration. Is it worth a read... er, watch?

Contrary to popular opinion, I'm gonna say yes. In short, Watchmen is a superhero deconstruction set in an alternate 1985 where costumed crimefighters have been outlawed... and potentially targeted for murder. Oh, and it's also a staggering piece of visionary brilliance.

The motion comic's animation isn't extravagant – don't expect The Incredibles here – but for a generation comfortable with blurry YouTube clips and Flash webcomics, it makes the material fairly approachable. More is accomplished playing with pans and different depths of field than I imagined. The narration is a little less successful – I didn't realize it was a single actor until I heard him read as the first female character... or attempt to. And at some point, all these characters will be burned into our brain with the faces and voices of the upcoming film.

But until then, watching it chapter-by-chapter on your iPod isn't a bad way to go. Purists will claim that the only way to experience Watchmen is to turn the printed pages, but for those unlikely to venture into the corner comic shop, this makes for a decent download. Overall, it's nice to see the medium treated with respect, and frankly, if well-intentioned efforts turn new audiences on to comic classics, I'm all for it.


If you have $300 million lying around...

...you could buy this:
The Opening Ceremonies of the 2008 Games

Pretty impressive, as these things go, particularly the scale and precision. Opening ceremonies are traditionally an explosion of symbolism and confusion, but the messages of this spectacular was fairly clear: China's a much more open society than, well, it's acted like it is, we can coordinate armies of people with a snap of our fingers, and we've got more money than you could possibly imagine. While the show did feature some slight head-shakers (like a parade of adorable children presenting the Chinese and Olympic flags to... stern goose-stepping soldiers) overall the performers used a novel combination of digital technology (a 500-foot LED screen) and traditional discipline (2008 dancers forming and re-forming perfect circles in unison) to highlight China's cultural contributions through history. In case you missed it, a quick recap:

2008 drummers that coordinated light patterns with every strike

Traditional costumes presented on a mass scale

A rippling ocean simulated with incredible precision

Snow ninjas and, um, glowing frogmen

Spectacular Cirque du Soleil-style displays and China's famous fireworks

Bob Costas and Matt Lauer provided the commentary, along with their Chinese analyst, Joshua Cooper Ramo. Lauer talked a great deal about the scrim that surrounds the entire stadium; in this ceremony, it was used to project supporting images on – in the future, one imagines it'll support advertising for the Chinese soccer team. Costas kept upping the ante of bombastic praise, finishing with something like "for Opening Cermonies competition, you can now close the book!" Guess Muhammed Ali and this guy can go screw, huh? And Ramo skirted China's brutal human rights record and other controversial issues, urging everyone to focus on the future... or at least the impressive dancers. One odd note they all kept repeating was the fact that all the formations featured 2008 performers, as testimony to the host country's huge population. Yes, China's got a lot of people – but it's not like Vancouver's gonna be unable to scrounge up 2010 dancers for the opening of the Winter Games in a couple years. Overall, tho, good show. Now bring on the underage gymnasts!