The Season 15 America’s Got Talent Judge Cuts aired Tuesday, but due to coronavirus concerns, they looked nothing like the Cuts from the series’ previous 14 cycles. The semi-remote episode, shot back in June when the California government temporarily allowed TV productions to resume, took place on a Simi Valley open-air lot, with Simon Cowell, Heidi Klum, Howie Mandel, and Sofia Vergara doling out their good and bad news to the 100 AGT hopefuls via a drive-in-theater-sized Zoom screen.
It was a bittersweet occasion, not just because of the strange circumstances, but because only 44 of those 100 acts would ultimately advance to the Quarterfinals. But none of this dampened the sunny mood of the Ninja Twins, who threw a socially distanced pool party in an attempt to win over party-pooper Simon and win an invitation back to the live shows.
Avid reality-watchers might remember now-40-year-old identical bros Nick and James Aragon, a.k.a. the Ninja Twins, from So You Think You Can Dance, when in 2014 they went viral with a campy audition set to Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror.” At that time, SYTYCD judge Nigel Lythgoe praised the twins’ “personalities and exuberance” and called them “tremendous,” but when they tried out for AGT this year (with an original song that spelled out their name, Village People-style), Nigel’s onetime nemesis Simon wasn’t so exuberant. He even red-X’d the twins! Simon was downright aghast when he was outvoted that day by the amused Howie and Sofia — and the Ninjas high-kicked their way to the next round.
While some standout auditioners from this season — like guitar-shredding glam-rocker Bonavega, aerialist Alan Silva, tomboy belter Celena, openly gay country crooner Kameron Ross, emo-haired sword-swallower Brett Loudermilk, TV host-turned-standup comic Michael Yo, preteen ukulele player Feng E, child prodigy Annie Ross, and unjustly incarcerated soul singer Archie Williams — all automatically advanced to the live shows this Tuesday, the judges were understandably on the fence (or on very opposite sides of the fence) when it came to the Ninja Twins. Therefore, the brothers were one of 10 acts asked to (remotely) perform a second time. Luckily, they had a very nice backyard — at their very nice mom’s house, it seemed? — at their disposal.
So, what ensued was basically a budget version of Justin Bieber’s “Beauty and a Beat” music video (set to the Biebs’s more recent hit “Yummy”) as performed by a middle-aged suburban offshoot of LMFAO. And I have to say, I did L-M-F-A-O myself. From the moment they started rocking their Mr. Microphones in front of that school-talent-show tinsel curtain, in their “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” neon short-shorts with matching ringmaster tuxedo blazers and their Freddie Mercury ‘staches, I was thoroughly entertained.
But the real magic happened when they took it outside and frolicked in a Lisa Frank wonderland of giant popsicles, inflatable rainbows, and adult-sized kiddie pools. Sure, they got winded well before the song ended. But thankfully, there was a pastel picnic table nearby, conveniently laden with yummy confections, to provide the twins with the sugar rush they needed to barely power through this bizarre extravaganza. It all ended with a pool-jump that looked like something out of an ‘80s beer commercial, so much so that I half-expected Spuds Mackenzie to walk into frame.
Simon looked aghast again, all bug-eyed and slack-jawed… so it was a surprise when he told the Ninja Twins, “It was so bonkers, so crazy, I actually liked that! I think you're hilarious.”
Unfortunately, Simon didn’t stay sweet on the twins for long. With room for only five of Tuesday’s 10 performers to move on to the Quarterfinals, it was just too competitive, and the Ninjas didn’t make the cut. (The other eliminated contestants of the night were Scottish hula-hooper Craig Reid, comedian Ty Barnett, harmonica duo Brothers Gage, and magician Ryan Tricks; advancing to the live shows were child ballroom dancers Simon & Maria, hard-luck singer-songwriter Nolan Neal, mentalist Max Major, Atlanta country singer Shaquira McGrath, and arrow-dodging daredevil Jonathan Goodwin.)
Oh well — at least the Ninja Twins sort of won Simon over in the end, and at least they have a well-stocked party house in which they can staycation for the duration of this pandemic. And speaking of pandemics… the America’s Got Talent live shows are set to begin on Aug. 11, but details on just how exactly that’s going to work, in the COVID age, have yet to be revealed. Will the judges be forced to watch the rest of the season on a drive-in movie screen? Watch this space.
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