Last night I had the opportunity to see one of my favorite shows on television – “America’s Got Talent” – taped live at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood!
I’ve been watching the show since season two and seen it taped twice before, but this time was different. For one, Season 11 has showcased it’s greatest selection of talent ever! Secondly, this time I was going to see the show taped as a guest of my friend Kevin, who’s worked with AGT judge Howie Mandel. Kevin’s also a massive AGT fan as well, so the two of us and my sister Sharon made our way to the Dolby theater to see the final 10 acts of Season 11 give the performance of their lives for an opportunity to win $1 million dollars and a Las Vegas show!
Sharon and I met up with Kevin at the Dolby Theatre and were quickly escorted in to the underbelly of the stage that’s also home to the Oscars. Howie Mandel’s wonderful Manager Rich whisked us down to the dressing rooms to meet the one and only Howie, a long time favorite comedian of mine going back to my High School days. Howie was incredibly gracious with his time. Kevin and Howie talked a bit of business, then the three of us talked about this amazing season and he asked me what I did for a living and when I told him I sold my company recently so I’m “semi-retired” he wanted to know more. When I told him I used to run a comic book & pop culture Web site called Comic Book Resources that covered mostly geek culture, I added, “But I promise, we never wrote anything bad about you!” He laughed and said, “Hey, as long as you get the spelling of my name right!”
Sharon was introduced as “my sister Sharon,” at which point Sharon said, “I’m his sister, but I’m not a sister,” to which Howie responded, “So you’re not a sister, but you are his sister? You’re not a nun?” Something like that. Trust me, it was two fun moments after another that I can’t capture well here. Sadly, Sharon and I were having so much fun just chatting with him, we never asked for a selfie.
And BTW, seriously, for 60 years old, the guy looks fantastic. Must find out his secret!
What followed was 3.5 hours of warm up, segment tapings and then the live show, which all flew right by! Frank Nicotero was the warmup host and he was excellent –the more geek centric of you reading this may recognize that last name. Yup, he’s the brother of “The Walking Dead’s” Greg Nicotero.
Now, let’s talk about the talent. It’s been said a lot already, but it bears repeating: this was the best season of AGT since it’s inception! The leap in talent we’re seeing season-to-season is really incredible, which is making this season a tough one to choose a winner from. Of the 10 acts that performed last night, September 13th, I’d be happy with any of seven different acts winning. SEVEN! You can see all the winning acts over on The Wrap.
For me, here’s how I ranked each of the finalists, from best to last, based on all their performances, with their final performance given a bit more weight.
- Grace VanderWaal – Absolutely captivating the entire season and one of the few singers on the show who consistently blows us away with original songs, not covers. Her songs always move me and you can listen multiple times and still discover something new about them. Hands down, the winner of this season and a future household name (if she isn’t already)!
- Jon Dorenbos – The NFL player with a dark past has been one of the most impressive contestants on the show and last night he not only did a magic trick, but he moved and inspired everyone in the room. He could be the surprise winner and I’d have no problem with that. His post NFL career is looking very, very bright.
- Victor Kee – His juggling has always been superb, but the performance in the finale was amazing. Beautiful orchestration, incredible gymnastics that showed off new skill sets and one of the best presentations of the night. Plus, he just seems like an incredible soul.
- Linkin’ Bridge – Their harmonyy and singing is incredible, their stories will blow you away. These four men got better and better throughout the competition. I think their second to last performance – their cover of Lukas Graham’s “7 years” – was their best of the season.
- Tapeface – the mime/clown with an edge that always kept you on the edge of your seat. A brilliant absurdist and an incredible final performance that saw judge Mel B wearing a toilet seat around her neck. Couldn’t stop laughing! I’d be thrilled if he’d win – I believe a win for Tapeface or Victor would do more for them than Grace or Jon, who I believe already have bright future’s following AGT.
- Sofie Dossi – Another act that consistently improved throughout the season, especially her final two performance. Seeing her do those aerial acrobatics live was a real treat. I’ve seen many great aerial artists before and she’s one of the best and will only get better!
- Brian Justin Crum – See what I’m saying? There’s just too much talent this year. Any of these first seven contestants I listed could win and Brian has good odds of upsetting Grace as the winner, IMO. I wasn’t 100% sold on his rendition of Michael Jackson’s “The Man in the Mirror,” but he’s provne to be an original who really infuses and epic feel in all of his songs. His cover of Phil Collins’ “In The Air Tonight” was nothing short of brilliant.
Sal Valentinetti – What’s not to like about the oversized personality (and heart) that is Sal Valentinetti? And of course, there’s the extended family like Cousin Tommy (Sharon couldn’t resist snapping a selfie with him growing out of my head!)! Not quite on the level of the other six, but very deserving of being in the finale.
- Laura Bretan – Much more impressive in person versus on television, but I admit to a bit of opera fatigue on AGT. Between Prince Poppycock and Jackie Evancho, we’ve seen some incredible operatic talent already. Laura has a big career ahead of her, but I’m afraid the talent was too stacked this year for her to have a real chance of winning.
- The Clairvoyants – My least favorite of the final contestants, whose act for me got a bit repetitive. I would have loved to see the Passing Zone in this 10th spot, but alas America didn’t see it that way. That said, the Clairvoyants are an act perfectly packaged for Las Vegas and I imagine we’ll see them on the strip some time soon, regardless of the outcome of this show.
So, who do you think will win? The results will be announced tonight.
Thanks again to Kevin for the incredible evening, to Howie and Rich for their time and the entire AGT cast and crew for producing another outstanding season of the greatest live talent show on TV, “America’s Got Talent!”