Simon Cowell gets insulted, Howie Mandel runs away and Heidi Klum offers an apology on a wild premiere night as the best of the best of the "Got Talent" franchise face off.
After a successful mid-season run last year, "America's Got Talent: The Champions" returned, and along with it came former judge Heidi Klum.
There was no indication of anything amiss with the show, despite Gabrielle Union alleging racist behavior after her unceremonious firing following the show's most recent season (she was let go alongside fellow newbie Julianne Hough, who says everything was great as she does more and more work at the network).
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Heidi was joined by "AGT" newcomer, Alesha Dixon, a British pop star and judge of "Britain's Got Talent." And she was ... fine. Really almost interchangeable with the other judges at this point.
It's a good thing, too, as the judges shouldn't be the highlight when there is talent of this caliber hitting the stage. Returning "AGT' favorites mixed it up with global "Got Talent" superstars to bring a pretty incredible night of talent. And then most of them went home.
For this first round, only four of the ten acts each night will advance to the semi-finals round. And one of them moves on thanks to the judges' golden buzzer, leaving only three slots for the remaining nine to duke it out over. This week, the power is in Heidi Klum's hands.
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On top of that, they're not vying for the judges' support, as outside of the golden buzzer, the judges are powerless already. There is a cross-section of American "superfans" who will be deciding who advances and who doesn't.
All the judges can do is critique the acts and try to sway their votes. But that doesn't always work, anyway. Wonky reality competition results have become the norm when it comes to these types of shows. Will it happen again?
Fair warning, since I'm safe at home, I'm probably going to be a little harsher than my colleagues Howie Mandel, Alesha Dixon, Heidi Klum and Simon Cowell. But I might be nicer, too. Maybe.
And just for fun, I'm gonna rank them from worst to first to see who emerges as my Top 4 and ultimate winner.
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(stand-up comedian) Despite faltering in the semi-finals in Season 9 of "AGT," Dan enjoyed increased success as a comedian coming off of the show, appearing on various late-night shows and even a recurring role on an HBO series. Unfortunately, none of these jokes worked. Howie was the only one laughing, while the rest of us reacted with winces and confused faces. He didn't take criticism very well, either, telling Simon that when it comes to comedy, he couldn't tell his ass from his elbow. And that got the biggest laughs of his set.
(accordian player) Season 13 lunatic and virtually indescribable talent, Hans actually started off with some decent vocals, but it turned into his usual insanity when he started rapping Lizzo's"Juice" and tapping. He was out of breath and it just wasn't working at any level. Simon even gave him an X, though he delighted the rest of the panel.
(singer) When he won "Australia's Got Talent" at age 14, his voice had yet to change. When it finally did, he stepped away from music for awhile. He only returned last year on the Australian version of "The Voice" -- which they didn't mention here -- where he finished as a semi-finalist. While he's grown into his voice, it lacked some of the moments of strength we wanted here. He did hit one power note toward the end, but felt like he was straining to miss others.
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(strongman) Eddie came just shy on "Australia's Got Talent," faltering at the semi-finals, but he's already a record holder and champion in the world of strength. We loved the way he threw everyone off by performing feats of strength before abruptly shifting into a gente crooner. Unfortunately, he hit a bum note along the way and chose a song that didn't really make him stand out as a singer nearly as much as he does as a strongman.
Paddy and Nicko
(dancers) This 85-year-old woman partnered with her dance instructor 40 years younger than her after her husband's death to rekindle her love for dance. They fell short on "Britain's Got Talent" after a rib injury, so were hoping for redemption and it was truly remarkable to see. They were doing lifts and moves people half their age are nervous to do, and Nicko is so gentle with Paddy. They modify them to protect her body, but still it's amazing to watch.
(singer) This subway singer stole the hearts and ears of America in Season 12 of "AGT," but of course no one could touch ventriloquist/singer Darci Lynne that year. He came back with his own single this time and he makes it just look so effortless and easy when he sings. It's a catchy tune, too, which certainly helps. It's hard to stand out as a vocalist on this show, but Mike has that likability on top of his incredible pipes that makes you want to root for him.
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(shadow dancers) The 2018 winners of "Myanmar's Got Talent" brought their unique use of light and shadow to tell the story of children left behind in war. While their message was a little muddled at times, they had very creative use of their bodies, forced perspective and props to create some compelling images. It was a little frantic and unfocused at times, but nevertheless emotionally resonant.
(singer) This 13-year-old jazz singer won "Norway's Got Talent" back when she was seven, but still wants to break through in America. Coming out a little awkward and shy, there was no mistaking the unique quality of her voice as she jumped right into "Bohemian Rhapsody," but like it was a jazz-infused dirge. She has such confidence in herself as a vocalist, you could tell she had more range and power than she gave us, but restraint was the perfect choice here, establishing and keeping a consistent mood throughout. And for that, she got Heidi's golden buzzer.
(magician) A rare female magician, Dania made it to the finals on "Spain's Got Talent" before switching to a quick-change act that killed her chances. Tonight, she was back to close-up magic, which is what scored reigning "Champions" champ two "AGT' franchise wins in less than a year. That's a tough act to follow. It was actually a remarkable act, as Dania used card manipulation to tell her life story, creating a poignancy you just don't see in magic.
(acrobats) Talk about "AGT" changing lives, this couple's appearance on the show led to an eye surgeon reaching out to them who was able to stop Tyce from losing any more of his sight (he was going to go completely blind). This time around, they did half of their routine blindfolded and there were some absolutely stunning and heart-stopping tricks had they been able to see while doing them. This was the strongest they've ever been!
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After Angelina Jordan scored the golden buzzer, there were only three slots remaining to advance. Based on our rankings above, which we totally stand by, those slots should have gone to Duo Transcend, Dania Diaz and Junior Creative.
But could America really not vote through any singers? Heidi took away their shot at advancing a kid singer (America's favorite sub-category), so it was truly up in the air as to who the superfans might put through.
Plus, we know the audience really loved Paddy and Nicko, while Mike Yung has one of the strongest voices. But would the senior acts have a chance against some of the younger performers?
It turns out they couldn't as Duo Transcend knocked the duo out on their way into the semi-finals. Next up, Mike Yung got eliminated to make room for Dania Diaz, making us two for two so far with our third choice still in the running.
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In a new twist, the remaining three acts were the ones who finished fourth, fifth and sixth (not in our rankings, but the superfans) and their fate was in the hands of the judges, who didn't seem to know this was coming. It's basically the "Dunkin' Save" from the parent series minus the Dunkin.
Heidi picked Hans, followed by Alesha's vote for Junior Creative. Simon put it all on Howie with a nod to Jack Vidgen. So really, Howie was between us and a clean sweep and he's the most bonkers judge out there.
Our streak ended right at his feet as he chose Hans to move onto the semi-finals. Now, as crazy as that sounds, America did put him fourth, fifth or sixth, so Howie and Heidi are clearly not alone with their love for ... whatever his act is.
The insanity continues on "America's Got Talent: The Champions" every Monday night at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.
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