AGT Extreme 5th Judge: Meaningless Golden Buzzer Sets Up Extremely Messy Finale, Winner Crowned

An interesting and frustrating format for this condensed spinoff, “America’s Got Talent: Extreme,” as we wrapped up Round 1 auditions on the same night as the season finale.

The middle round, which was supposed to feature the contestants competing in front of those elusive “superfans” we’ve been hearing about on these types of shows since the pandemic began, apparently happened between the auditions and the finale, but those performances would not be televised.

And it didn’t stop there. Apparently, this season was all about the audition rounds, because for the vast majority of the competition, that’s all there was. Did they compete again? We may never know for sure. But we know we didn’t get to see it.

Instead, there were several rounds of cuts until we were down to a Top 2. That’s right, with five Golden Buzzers advancing straight to the finale, along with whomever the superfans voted through, most of those acts would still never perform again. Kind of takes the buzz out of those Golden Buzzers, doesn’t it? What do they mean on this show?

Maybe a six-episode run would have helped. We could have added one more week to the competition. Give us four weeks of auditions and then a Monday two-hour show of the acts who advanced to the superfans, followed by a two-hour finale where the superfans winners would actually compete against all the Golden Buzzers to crown a winner.

Otherwise, what’s the point of getting invested in someone’s journey, or even having them advance via the votes or the Golden Buzzer if that doesn’t mean we’ll see them again?

In fact, thanks to this format, the best performance of the night didn’t even come during the finale portion (second hour) of the broadcast. At least we got some more great audition performances before that mess of a final hour.

Oh, and the show did crown a winner. Was it the right one? We have lots of thoughts before we get there … so let’s get on with it!

Fair warning, since I’m safe at home, I’m probably going to be a little harsher than my colleagues Nikki Bella, Travis Pastrana, 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 how my favorites do and then we can see how you did — i.e., if you agreed with me.

(heavy machinery agility) We love the whole premise of this eight-member group, choreographing heavy machinery to music to create art in the most unexpected way. On top of that, they are actual coworkers who use the machinery for its intended purpose in their day jobs, which makes the whole thing even more special. They found an unexpected way to create art and follow their passion using skills learned at their trade.

The execution wasn’t quite as great as the premise on paper, but there is definitely potential in the whole idea. There were a few cute moments, but it was definitely not enough to make a mark on this show. It was utterly ridiculous in a way that was endearing, and we do love the people involved as they seem to have genuine heart, but this act definitely needs a lot of work. We needed a lot more dancing from those machines than we got.

Results: N, Y, Y

(fire dancing with rope dart) There was a beauty to what William was doing, but we’re not sure it was quite “Extreme” enough. If he’d have incorporated a second ball of fire, or something a little more exciting, maybe. It just got repetitive very quickly as it would go around his body, around his neck, out and then back in. Rinse. Repeat. The biggest audience reactions were for the pyrotechnics happening on the stage behind him, and if the biggest reactions are coming from what you’re not doing, that can’t be a good sign.

Results: N, Y, Y

(80ft duo sway pole) Dating back to 1840, the Nock family has been doing this for generations. Now, this father-daughter duo (Michelangelo & Angelina) are taking to the sky for their signature act atop two 80-foot sway poles. To heighten the drama, Angelina revealed that she’d broken her leg and been in a boot for a long time, and this was her first performance back since the injury. And so, she has a ladder giving her a head start up the pole. Is it real? Part of a dramatic backstory? It could all be part of their show, but we’ll never know!

It’s such an unusual act, and yet there’s no denying the danger involved. No nets, no safety and they went so far as to sway into one another and even switch poles. It wasn’t the smoothest transition, but it was still very cool. We’d have liked a little more activity at the top to really sell the risk-taking, but we were in love with the way they slid headfirst down the poles for their respective dismounts. Here’s hoping they have a way to make it bigger and bolder.

Results: Y, Y, Y

(aerial silks suspected 90ft in the air) Erika is coming back from a serious shoulder injury that derailed her flying passion for two years. Looking like something from “Up,” the judges were first treated to the largest bunch of balloons they’ve probably ever seen before Erika told them she would be performing on aerial silks … from the balloons. We’ve seen silks before on the show, but not from this high or hanging from a bunch of balloons.

Erika proved she’s still got it, fearless up there with no safety net, performing and drifting around the grounds as she did, making the complexity and danger so much greater. We loved the intricacy of what she was doing and there was a beauty and elegance to it that was all in her delivery of the movements. This is how you take something familiar and make it “extreme.”

Results: [Unanimous Golden Buzzer]

Avril and Travis, of course, sounded great and we got some nice aerial stunts from the motorcycle guys, but why did they always make their passes back-to-back-to-back-to-well you get the idea? Couldn’t they have mixed it up at least a little bit? The stunts themselves were incredible and very impressive, but it was a sea of bikes and then nothing for so long. We get the desire to focus on Avril and Travis, too, but a little variety is the spice of life!

First up, the five Golden Buzzer acts from across the season all got to advance automatically past the superfans and directly into this finale. Those acts are as follows, with who gave them their golden buzzer in parentheses:

Wheels (Nicki Bella)Alfredo Silva’s Cage Riders (Terry Crews)Verge Aero (Simon Cowell)Cyndel Flores (Travis Pastrana)Erika Lemay (Unanimous)

Beyond that, we learned that the superfans round was actually the most brutal round of the whole competition. All those acts we’ve seen that got “Yes” votes went into that round to battle it out for only two remaining spots in this Finale.

What we’d have liked to see is what those acts delivered to the superfans. Was it the same thing we already saw, just shown to a new group of people? Instead of anything new, we got a brief montage of their auditions before the reveal of which two acts would join the above five.

Immediately, we were disappointed with those superfans because they put Aaron Evans through, who jumped over the cars driving toward him at 35 mph. It was dangerous and impressive but also extremely limited and not nearly as awesome as so many other acts we’ve seen.

He was then joined by Jade Kinder-Martin, who did impress with his high-wire act. This act was at least impressive and dangerous, but they were by no means the best two acts to advance to the superfans round. We need to know how this happened. We want a recount that gives more love to acts like Leeky Da BikeStar and Bruce Cook and the Nerveless Nocks!

In all honesty, most of the best acts were already picked up by the judges, so we can’t be too mad about this. But to be more honest, we still are!

So after a dramatic reveal of the Top 7 finalists, we don’t even get to see all seven of them compete one last time. Instead, we got to see a not-at-all dramatic reveal of the superfans’ Top 4 from this grouping. Honestly, these superfans have too much power and this show has too little action.

For a show called “Extreme,” it’s extremely boring to just watch Terry call names when he could be standing on the sidelines watching action. Who thought this was a good format for the finale/ This portion of the show was an hour long; you couldn’t fit in seven performances? Skip the judges’ comments and give us a show!

Instead, we got yet another list:

WheelzErika LemayAlfredo Silva’s Cage RidersJade Kindar-Martin

And just like that, the Golden Buzzer doesn’t mean anything, either. It didn’t guarantee them a chance to compete in the finale It just skipped one round with the superfans — which led right into a second round with the superfans. Why not just let them declare the winner without seeing any more acts perform at all, if you’re going to just have them whittle it down round after round based on that one audition. Honestly, this show’s format makes zero sense.

Did someone tell them that this is what people like to see? Round after round of reducing the number of competitors with no performances at all? Well, here we go again with the third round of eliminations on the night and all anyone has done is stand on the stage.

And once again, it was all up to the superfans. Maybe they got to see more than we did. We don’t even get to know who they are or what their deal is. But they sure are in control of a hell of a lot on this show.

This time, to up the drama because there otherwise isn’t any, Terry called the Top 4 up in pairs. First up, it was Erika Estrada and Alfredo Silva’s Cage Riders to hear what the superfans thought of them this time. We’d rather see what else Erika has up her sleeves, but the superfans went with the more known commodity and Alfredo Silva’s Cage Riders actually get to perform again.

That left Wheelz and Jade Kindar-Martin, which had us feeling pretty confident that Wheelz was going to be their pick because he has the more powerful story of perseverance and overcoming odds and expectations to pursue his dreams. And, of course, that’s exactly what happened as Wheelz prepared to take on Alfredo.

He has a great story, but we need to see something a lot more impressive and a lot cleaner this time from Wheelz if he’s going to be able to compete with the layers of complexity and danger Alfredo puts into his act.

Look, we were thrilled with the premise of this series, but after seven hours of auditions, we only got to see 90 percent of these acts one time and that seems like a colossal waste of everyone’s time and energy and enthusiasm and even Golden Buzzers. All of it was rendered almost meaningless as the superfans decided everything.

Now, it’s down to just two acts, and at least we were given the chance to see them perform again. And it is exciting that genuinely dangerous acts are getting the chance to compete for the top prize, and one of them is guaranteed to win. The format of this season is just a colossal letdown.

On another level, which is kind of fun, this comes down to a matchup between Terry’s Golden Buzzer and Terry’s. Will it be the host or new judge who takes home bragging rights? Once again, it’s up to the superfans, so who knows what they’re going to do. They don’t have the best track record already tonight.

Wheelz literally landed on his face with the first jump he did on the audition round, earning Nikki’s Golden Buzzer only after he gave it a second go and landed the jump. He’s going up against seasoned motorcycle daredevils who brought incredible stunts. He’s got to have the cleanest run of his life to really stand a chance. His rehearsal runs didn’t go great. Once again, he gave himself two shots to land a backflip this time around.

Just like the first time we saw him, Wheelz was sloppy in the air and blew the landing. He wasn’t clean in his first audition, and he’s already not clean here. There’s no quit in him, which is admirable, but trying and failing is what Jenna Bandy trying to break her football record did and she was basically laughed off the show after failing. Wheelz got a second shot both rounds, but this time he didn’t land either of them. He landed one out of four runs on this show.

He should not have been here and he definitely should not win. And yet, the judges were telling him he still had a shot at winning and what he did was still amazing. Yes, it’s impressive that he does this, but to win a show like this by not landing your stunts at all would tarnish the reputation of the show. Oh, if you just go out and try really hard, then you can win even if you fail. That’s not how competition works.

At this point, all Alfredo should need is to not crash and burn and the title is his. The fact his competition faltered so badly, setting him up for an easy victory, is just another reason the format of this spinoff is a complete and total disaster. Alfredo and his team did more in his audition round than Wheelz accomplished successfully all season.

Alfredo’s cage of death is designed for three motorbikes as its maximum, but to up the stakes for the finale, he revealed that they were going to push that max and get four riders going at the same time inside. But before we even got to that, we were treated to three in the cage and some incredible jumps above it. That alone was enough, in our book, to beat what Wheelz didn’t do.

But then, in came the fourth bike and it was immediately apparent that there wasn’t really room for that many in there. And yet, they got all four of them moving, doing intricate maneuvers — though two were always in tandem. Still, it was incredibly dangerous and performed to perfect with no snafus. This should be a no-brainer at this point.

Seriously, this can only go one way, right? Was this whole show so Alfredo could get his redemption for failing to win the regular show or the “Champions” edition. He mixed up his act and changed it entirely from what we’ve seen before and it was even stronger. Alfredo worked hard to put this together, and that work definitely paid off.

Wheelz has the heart of a champion for sure, but he did not have the execution of a champion. He faltered in his audition, but nailed the second landing. Then, in the finale, he faltered on both of his runs. If we’re going to compare this to the Olympics, which Travis did, there’s no way these runs would be enough to win unless everyone else fell, too.

Thankfully, it did matter in the final results as Alfredo Silva’s Cage RIders emerged a worthy victor. Imagine how differing things might have been if all the acts had to actually perform before we got down to this Top 2.

We take nothing away from Alfredo Silva’s Cage Riders as they were incredible both times we saw them perform and they are more than worthy of this title. We just wish they’d had a better show structure behind them on their way to that victory.

“America’s Got Talent” returns to its normal format — thank goodness — this summer on NBC.

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