There may be no such thing as true bad publicity in showbiz, but ever since the naming of Howard Stern as the replacement for Piers Morgan on the "America's Got Talent" Season 7 panel, the backlash from some All-American voices has been persistent and prejudiced, right up to the plea by the Parents Television Council to boycott the broadcast just days before tonight's premiere, but the King of All Media clearly showed he has a heart this week, and a head for discerning talent and the target audience of the most unique offering among talent television.
The opening montage made a point to present Stern in a new, embracing light, apart from his radio ramblings, plucking quotes about the "greatest country in the world" being showcased by his new show, and being proud to "make dreams come true." Stern soon shed his self proclaimed nervousness for settling in, speaking his mind, and sharing a laugh with co-judges, Sharon Osbourne and Howie Mandel, teasing "I'm comfortable, you can leave now."
The first talent in Los Angeles coming forth to take that million-dollar Vegas contract was Aoni Jackson, professing to be a magician, but showing more of himself and a sleaze factor with his striptease sans any magic after taking Howie Mandel's ring and reattaching it to his nipple chain behind an illicit screen. It didn't take long to vote him out, Stern admonishing he was hoping for magic, but got "pants off with a small package" instead, and Howie forsaking his ring with no hesitation after touching all those not so private parts! Miss Les longed to share her lovely voice, unfortunately accompanied by 22 squabbling cockatiels! She more than amused Howie Mandel, but even animal lover Sharon Osbourne had had enough before her last note, and Stern was simply not sure what to do with her gifts, apart from not offering her a Vegas run. There was a strumming cowboy crushing Creedence Clearwater Revival, causing Stern to banish him from "his" stage, questioning whether the singer's parents had "died of embarrassment" over natural causes. The Sexy Sax Man provoked Howard to dance, and that may have moved Sharon to enough distaste that she couldn't resist an "X" for the scantily dressed musician she might otherwise have liked.
At last, everything that makes the show standout among talent television tantalized again, as William Close converted the entire auditorium into his own instrument with his massively elongated strings of his "Earth Harp," creating a performance entirely unique and never seen on TV. Stern's jokes of "no wonder China is ahead of us" in education turned to awe and admiration for a "totally original" talent, and raves from Sharon that only on her show do "we get to see gems like this" following the standing ovation. Howie Mandel offered his own word of "amazing" before William and his strings got word to start packing for Vegas. The Elements Dance Cru did clogging club style, with what Sharon called "crisp" choreography setting everyone raving. All Wheels Sports shined with their daredevil cycling, and teasing that death could be a possibility with their defying maneuvers in midair. Suspended scarf dancer, Elizabeth, was so precious no one could peek at her unraveling bravery above the stage, but they certainly could give her passage to Las Vegas! Chris captivated the whole panel with his off-the-cuff "AGT Rap" and wrapped up his ticket to the Strip, too. Jorge and Alexa were sublime as they showed that a real bond between a daughter and her dad, and a dose of unjaded childhood honesty could create magic beyond their heartfelt harmony. Little Alexa proclaimed that she hoped Howard Stern's daddy "don't cry," but she and dad nearly made him come to tears as he said he was going to call his dad to ask why he couldn't listen to his son's guitar.
The talents transitioned to St. Louis for the second half, and Ben Blaque brought the perfect combo of male model looks and mad skills with his crossbow, stunning the audience to silence with his piercing accuracy, and prompting Howie Mandel to a "vote and pose" salute. Following on the footsteps of forerunners, Team Illuminate, last season, Light Wire Theatre added dinosaurs and dancing flowers to their performance mix, moving the panel to praise and patriotism. For those with stomachs strong enough, a snake handler and scorpion muncher made his way through, too, along with a man and his dog ventriloquist pair. A somersaulting dance pair dazzled the panel, but some needle piercing sideshow Gypsies proved "why I don't like people" for Howard Stern. A kid corps of kazoo players couldn't pass muster, even with a protÃ©gÃ© who could have been Howard Stern's son! Loyalty Dance Group lifted their bodies in marvelous ways, and made spirits soar with their message of acceptance and artistic freedom, standing up for the underdog in their own unique anti-bullying form of urban ballet, their chance in Vegas called "God's Gift" by the tearful troupe.
Howard Stern called Simply Sergio "dreadful" after his initial performance of "The Girl from Ipanema," completely disregarding Howie Mandel's historic love for the lounge-like, but after an impassioned plea, Sergio was granted an audition of "God Bless America," that so moved Stern, he ascended the stage, and embraced Sergio, and stood for the vote of three affirmative for the stage in Las Vegas.
Another father and daughter shared the spotlight to close the evening, and Maurice and Shanice created one of those moments that displays the power of entertainment to change lives can never forget. They sang "You've Got a Friend" in such pure love and complementary support, dissolving generational gaps, Maurice deferring to soaring vocals of his daughter, no one viewing could deny the feeling. New judge, Stern, deemed the performance "spectacular" and "perfection," while Sharon Osbourne called Shanice "beautiful." Howie Mandel called it the "huge moment" for the opening of Season 7. This kind of moment is the reason "America's Got Talent" is absolutely worth watching.