'America's Got Talent': Winner declared, concept of 'talent' still being redefined

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“Life is made up of meetings and partings,” Charles Dickens once wrote.

Okay, that may actually just be a line from Kermit the Frog in The Muppet Christmas Carol, but in the case of America’s Got Talent, NBC’s annual summer competition that manages to be the spiritual heir to The Gong Show, a poignant homage to vaudeville, and a grotesque Felliniesque carnival — sometimes all at the same time — it’s especially true. Season 7, which wrapped tonight, saw both the departure of longtime judge Sharon Osbourne and the crowning of a new talent shortly to be unleashed upon the unsuspecting tourists of Las Vegas.

This year, the finalists included two performance painters–one whose medium was sand, thus becoming the first sand painter to reach an audience beyond your local Renaissance fair–an “earth harpist,” a dog trick act, a kiddie dance troupe, and a comedian who found Howard Stern’s hair to be the greatest source of fodder for his act. But there could be only one winner. And that was… [SPOILER ALERT for those who haven't watched tonight's finale yet]

The Olate Dogs! Yes, America deemed the act of two dog trainers and their cuddly, trick-performing canines–their act consists of the pooches bounding through hoops, jumping rope on their hind legs, and riding in toy SUVs–as the worthiest finalists. I suppose the result shouldn’t be a shock since we live in the age of cute-pet YouTube videos, but it’s hard to imagine anyone paying top dollar to see them perform in Vegas, the career-launching prize of all America’s Got Talent winners. Runner-up Tom Cotter, a comedian who relies on one-liner jokes about the ethics of the Prince kissing an unconscious Sleeping Beauty, seemed like a better choice for the Strip. He delivered a tag-team bit with Joan Rivers mocking Howard Stern (the shockjock has “gay pirate hair”!) that cried out for extensive rim-shot accompaniment.

Blue Man Group, which I assume to be former America’s Got Talent winners themselves, added their DayGlo whimsy to the proceedings, as did Justin Bieber and reality-competition show staples Flo Rida and One Republic, showing that America’s Got Talent is making an aggressive play to usurp Dancing With the Stars as the series with the most filler on TV.

If you watched, are you happy with the outcome? Would you pay top dollar to watch top dogs jump rope for 90 minutes?  Or do you hope that this act, like virtually every America’s Got Talent winner before it, stays in Vegas…and is never heard from again? Also, is there any point in watching the Blue Man Group if one Tobias Fünke isn’t involved?

More from EW.com:
Sharon Osbourne: I quit ‘AGT’ because NBC fired my son
TV Review: America’s Got Talent
Top 50 most-watched programs this summer

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