America's Got Talent

"How do you feel about blowing off half a day of the conference?"

"What an outrageous idea! I'm here to learn not to holiday!"

"We've got tickets to the live recording of '
America's Got Talent' in Orlando."

"... I fell in with such a bad group of people here."

So it turns out that Britian's contribution to American society is ... game shows. 'Who wants to be a millionaire?' (which morphed into a show of the same name, but substantially less money), 'Pop idol' (which morphed into 'American idol') and now 'Britain's got talent' (the morphing of this name will be left as a problem for the reader).

The last of these shows (for those not indoctrinated via Susan Boyle) involves any form of activity from singing, dancing, juggling, stripping (... we'll come back to that one), acting and so forth with your prowess being assessed by three judges. These crushers of poorly conceived dreams were Piers Morgan (who pretty much failed every act before it was done), Sharon Osbourne (wife of Ozzy) and Howie Mandel (known for his fit knocks because of an OCD that makes him hate hand shakes).

Watching the show live is far slower than the resulting production. We were told to arrive at 6 pm, yet they weren't due to finish recording until after 11. In addition to breaks between acts, there was a large amount of time spent on audience filming where we were told to pretend to be cheering a contestant, booing them and gazing at the stage with the intensity normally given to the finale of 'Lost'. These snippets were clearly going to be used as fillers in the editing room which just goes to prove; live audience reaction? Not so live. As it was, we gave up on America's talent at 9:30 pm and disappeared to find the more certain talent of the Cheese Cake Factory. The judges should have done the same; chances of passing to the next round dropped
exponentially with time.

The dress code was strict; no shorts, no hats, nothing with a logo printed, no bags, cell phones or cameras. Overall (it was stated) our attire had to be 'hip'. This caused raw panic among the group of astronomers I was traveling with. We had dedicated our life to Physics ... largely because we had failed to be exactly this.

Biggest surprise of the night? Probably the 74 year old grandmother who performed a heavy rock song in a spangly black dress. Worst act? I'd say the stripper. Yes, that's right, this guy's speciality for one of the biggest talent shows in the world was removing his clothes, down to a tight pink tee-shirt and Y-fronts. The judges laboured the point that this was, indeed, the smallest talent they had ever seen.

There was also a British (and everyone seemed okay with that ...) juggler, a knife thrower and an ex-army dude whose story begged the producers to use the 'intent staring' footage they'd pulled off the audience earlier.

During our return journey, I debated whether I should have entered myself. After all, I did have my conferenece presentation all ready to go right there on my laptop. There were some damn fine graphs in it. Damn fine.