Inside the 91st Oscars Nominees Luncheon

There's so much talent packed into this night of "America's Got Talent" it's tragic that only two of them get to advance to next week's finals.

Half of this week's act on "America's Got Talent: The Champions" lived up to the title by winning "Got Talent" editions around the world. It was so crazy, OG judge David Hasselhoff showed up as part of one wild performance.

Among them were the current winners of both the American and British shows, magician Shin Lim and comedian Lost Voice Guy. They were joined by Ukrainian winner sand artist Kseniya Simonova, British winners pianist Tokio Myers and shadow dancers Attraction.

Throw in second-place powerhouses like singer Jackie Evancho and escape artist Cosentino, as well as memorable finalists like musicians Sons of Serendip, singer Sal Valentinetti and "real life Sherlock Holmes" Colin Cloud, and this is the most packed night of talent yet this season.

It also makes it even more frustrating that only two of these ten acts can advance to next week's finals, with one of them selected by Terry Crews' golden buzzer and the other by representatives of the 50 states. Can we pick one more? Maybe two? Okay, three.

Terry Crews takes over for Tyra Banks as host, but that's not the only change. Instead of getting America involved, we are represented by a group of "super fans" from all 50 states. Each week, they choose one act to carry on and the judges choose the other with their golden buzzer (it's Mel B's tonight). Ten enter, but only two move on.

Fair warning, since I'm safe at home, I'm probably going to be a little harsher than my colleagues Howie Mandel, Mel B, Heidi Klum and Simon Cowell. But I might be nicer, too. Maybe. Even though it's basically a crap shoot this year, I'm gonna rank them from worst to first to see who emerges as my winner each week.

Sal Valentinetti

(singer) The 2016 fifth-place finisher is just as authentic as he was two years ago, bringing that old-school crooner vibe to "Mack the Knife." He was a lot of fun to watch, and he's a true bygone talent that absolutely gets what it was about those old tunes and the swagger needed to bring them to life, but nothing here was big enough or dynamic enough to move on past this round.


(escape artist) This 2011 runner-up on "Australia's Got Talent" brought all kinds of danger to his escape stunt on this stage. There were crossbows and even fire. All he needed to add was an element of drowing and he'd be secure. But if we're being totally honest, aside from the fire at the end, it was just a matter of picking four locks with a sturdy lockpick within an allotted time and to the most dramatic effect. There are more adrenaline-pumping and terrifying escapes out there.

Jackie Evancho

(singer) Despite coming in second back in 2010, Jackie has had an amazing career over the past decade, and she's only 18 years old. She was truly transcendent on Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Music of the Night," but there just wasn't enough of it to truly pull us into what she does so very well. As a first audition, this would have guaranteed a return. With stakes this high, I'm not sure she did enough to be memorable above some of the other acts. She's still an amazing vocalist, just not her best audition moment.

Lost Voice Guy

(comedian) The reigning champion of "Britain's Got Talent," Lee Ridley is a stand-up comedian who uses a mechanical voice to speak and has cerebral palsy. And yet, he finds the humor in his handicap and gently brings audiences in so they, too, can laugh with him. His act is totally unique because not only does he pre-write his jokes, like most comics, but he delivers them through a machine, the limitations which he even joked about. It's like no act you've seen, but Lee is genuinely funny on top of his heartwarming story. Funny enough to advance, though?

Colin Cloud

(mentalist) After appearances on "Britain's Got Talent' in 2012 and "AGT" in 2017, Colin remains remarkable at being a "real life Sherlock Holmes," as he describes himself. His act is truly one of a kind and always memorable, and yet he's only made it as far as the semifinals. While sleight of hand and an audience plant could have easily set up the naming of David Hasselhoff as the "random" celeb, more impressive was the Hoff being there in the seat number Howie randomly came up with. Colin is still ridiculously good at what he does, and his stage presentation makes it all the more magical. He really does deserve a shot at the big time.


(shadow dancers) This troupe has already wowed Olympic audiences in 2012 and won "Britain's Got Talent" a year later, but now they're bringing their show to the most competitive stage on television. Truly they are one of the most visionary performance artists going, offering up a stunning story of fatherhood and the passage of time through dance and the creation of shapes through their bodies and shadow. They laid the Americana on a bit thick, but Americans do eat that up so it might have been a smart move. But it's certainly easy to see how they won.

Tokio Myers

(pianist) In 2017, Tokio took the title on "Britain's Got Talent," and it is certainly easy to see why. Have you ever seen a grand piano tricked out like a drum kit? It's like nothing you've ever experienced as Tokio takes classic piano and infuses it with modern percussion elements to create a sound that his wholly his own. It is mesmerizing to watch and the only criticism we could find was that it simply didn't go on long enough.

Sons of Serendip

(music quartet) Back in 2014, this quartet of musicians made it to the finals of "AGT," but fell short. And yet, there is truly nothing like them in the world of music. A harp, a piano, a cello and an incredible vocalist, how can the music be anything but ethereal. They took "Somewhere Only We Know" to new heights and made it feel like the song you might hear at the gateway to the afterlife. And boy would that be a nice greeting.

Kseniya Simonova

(sand art) The 2009 winner of "Ukraine's Got Talent" came to show all the American sand artists how it's done and boy did she deliver. This is such a unique artform, but when done right it can be absolutely breathtaking. The combination of music and how she animates sand art was just beyond the words to describe. This was so gorgeous, so unique and a beautiful story told to perfection. She is a master craftsman, and knows the perfect rhythm to express her narrative beats and elicit emotion. Terry absolutely made the right call giving her his golden buzzer.

Shin Lim

(magician) The reigning "AGT" champ has barely had time to enjoy his title before he put it on the line. And you know what, we'd be okay with him coming back again and again because every single time he performs, we stop breathing and we can't believe what he's doing. This is the best close-up card magician possibly the world has ever see and he's still honing his craft. Tonight was just one mind-blowing stunt after another. If it were up to us, he might just win again.


It was already good news for Kseniya Simonova, but who would join her in next week's finals? Well, first we had to play the drag-it-out game and see who made it into the top three so they can feel worse that they were that close.

That meant a little extra sweat for Attraction, Shin Lim and Sons of Serendip, as each of them got to wait it out a little longer and see how close their dreams were.

3rd Place: Sons of Serendip

2nd Place: Attraction

1st Place: Shin Lim

And hey, look at that. On a night that had some of the franchise's best vocalists, America went with non-singers for their top two, and paired with Terry's golden buzzer there's a little more variety in the finals, even if it is still mostly singers.

Kseniya Simonva and Shin Lim join danger act Deadly Games, comedian Preacher Lawson and a litany of singers including Susan Boyle, Angelica Hale, Cristina Ramos, Paul Potts, Kechi and Brian Justin Crum.

But that's not all, as Terry promised a twist that we are going to love and we can only imagine that means some wild card choices being picked by the judges to get thrown back into the mix and get one final chance to win the whole thing. So let's get to guessing who's most deserving.

"America's Got Talent: The Champions" airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.

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