‘America’s Got Talent: The Champions’ premiere episode recap [UPDATING LIVE BLOG]

Over the next five weeks, “America’s Got Talent: The Champions” will feature 50 acts including five winners apiece from America and Britain as well as eight others from around the world competing to be declared the best of the best. Each of these first five episodes will showcase 10 of these acts. The series kicks off on January 7 with a two-hour premiere packed with, dare we say it, talent.

Sitting in judgement will be the regular “AGT” panel: Simon Cowell, Heidi Klum, Mel B and Howie Mandel. However, there is a new host Terry Crews, who’s replacing Tyra Banks. As with the regular show, each of these will get a Golden Buzzer that will send one act straight through to the final. Only one other act will get put through each week. They will be chosen by a group of super-fans that NBC gathered from all 50 states.

Among the 10 acts competing on the first episode are three past champs from one of the “Got Talent” franchises: “AGT” season 1 winner, singer Bianca Ryan; “Russia’s Got Talent” season 8 winner, sword swallower Alex Magala; and “Australia’s Got Talent” season 4 winner, dance troupe Justice Crew.

SEE ‘America’s Got Talent: The Champions’ leaked video: Season 1 winner Bianca Ryan returns after battling paralyzed vocal cord [WATCH]

But the biggest name is someone who didn’t win: Susan Boyle, who was runner-up in season 3 of “Britain’s Got Talent” to the dance group Diversity. Also looking for their first win are six acts from “AGT”: season 10 balancing act Uzeyer Novruzov; season 11 mentalists The Clairvoyants and contortionist Sofie Dossi; season 12 comedian Preacher Lawson and dog act Sara & Hero; and season 13 comedian Vicki Barbolak.

SEE ‘America’s Got Talent: The Champions’: Courtney Hadwin looking for redemption after shocking ‘AGT’ loss

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8:02 p.m. – Well, if you were worried that we weren’t going to be served fashion each week without Tyra on stage you were wrong! Terry looks GREAT in this carnation pink suit! Is it corduroy? Obsessed. Simon, of course, is still in a t-shirt though.

8:04 p.m. – Oh! So it looks like each episode a specific judge will be in charge of the Golden Buzzer and according to Terry tonight is Mel’s night! Who do you think she’ll choose?

8:05 p.m. – First up is the original AGT winner, Bianca Ryan. Since winning she’s been struggling to find her voice again after having vocal chord surgery. For Bianca, this season is about reclaiming her throne and proving that she still has the talent.

8:07 p.m. – Bianca’s performance of “Say Something” was vulnerable and emotionally raw. I loved it! It’s clear that she’s worked incredibly hard to get her voice back to where it used to be and that maturity really shows. Simon and Howie expressed gratitude for Bianca’s place in the show’s history and commended her on how far she’s come since winning at the age of 11.

8:14 p.m. – Next up is The Clairvoyants, promising to do something bigger and better than they achieved in their original season.

8:15 p.m. – In their performance they asked all four judges on stage for readings about their love lives! Simon picked a post card of a destination city, Heidi selected a candle from a table, Howie wrote about a dream date on a board and Mel was asked to take care of a secret box. With their selections secret back at the judges’ table, the Clairvoyants successfully guessed Heidi’s candle, Simon’s city and Howie’s written phrase! Lastly, Mel opened the box to reveal a remote control that when played on the screen showed The Clairvoyants earlier in the day predicting the three things the judges had selected!

8:21 p.m. – By the end, the judges’ minds were blown though I think the performance itself was pretty slow and dragged. Heidi reminded them that they were one of her favorites two years ago and Simon, gobsmacked, said it’s a step up from what they achieved as runner-ups and urged Mel to use her Golden Buzzer on them (she didn’t).

8:27 p.m. – Next up is Sara & Hero! Simon and Hero reuniting is sooo cute. Sara’s life has changed a lot since the show, settling down in a new house and traveling the country for performances. For her, the new season is a chance at redemption with Howie and Mel who gave their act a super close call prior to the finals and after they underwhelmed on their finale.

8:29 p.m. – Tonight Sara and Hero played bank robbers, dancing around the stage together in story form–a huge improvement on the more generic routines of their original season. Hero’s tricks included rolling a cart of gold bricks to Sara and the standard jumping through her legs and then crawling into a suitcase. Mel told them that their act warms her heart and Simon acknowledged that they face stiff competition but he would love to see them in the final.

8:37 p.m. – Next is Uzeyer, who Howie remembers for his devastating fall during the live shows. That fall sent him to the hospital, but he came back to prove that he can get back up the ladder again. Yes…. wait! Omg he hasn’t touched the ladder he fell from since falling from it, but is bringing it back tonight. I’m not ready!

8:40 p.m. – He began with a small ladder that allowed him to do flips and dips through (all while bouncing around) and then ended with the massive ladder, being sure to wobble it just enough to make us think he was in less control of it than he actually was. Thankfully he did it and the relief in his eyes and in the beating hearts of everyone in the audience was palpable! The judges were completely wowed–Simon even went so far as to define him as a champion, someone that has the guts to come back and try again.

8:47 p.m. – Vicki’s return is very welcomed because she was a riot last season! Her humility and loving energy is still clearly there which is nice to see, but she’s dead set on proving that she can be a champion.

8:50 p.m. – Vicki’s set was expectedly about her trailer park lifestyle, but with the added bit of her being famous and finally getting the “second best trailer” in her park. For me, the jokes didn’t quite hit the mark and it seemed like the laughs from the audience were muted, but the judges clearly love her and stressed how relatable she is in terms of picking up the support of the super fans from the 50 states.

8:59 p.m. – Sword swallower Alex comes to us from Russia as the winner of that country’s season 8 in 2014. Since then he says he performances at the Sochi Olympics Opening Ceremony, but tonight he’s performing the act he’s been dreaming of doing.

9:01 p.m. – The act that he says he’s never done before involved taking a blade about 3/4 the length of his arm and swallowing it straight down his mouth to the guard and then having Simon  pull it out, but the WTF moments were when he did a back flip with a sword down his throat and hung from a sword attached to a harness in the ceiling and then slid off of it. But, like, if that wasn’t enough then he climbed a massive pole in the center of the stage with a sword in his mouth and then…… death dropped from the top of the pole, face down, all the way to the….

9:08 p.m. – … floor. Well, he stopped himself just before the floor. And… it was… terrifying. I’m grossed out. I’m impressed. I’m completely shook. I hate him. I LOVE him. So many feels. As with most high danger acts, Mel felt sick while everyone else was flabbergasted by how daring the act was.

9:11 p.m. – The next act is a bit safer (thankfully!). Justice Crew won season 4 of the Australian iteration of the show, after which they parlayed their career into music and earned two number singles in Australia! Their goal with this season is to take their stardom from their own country and expanding it to the rest of the world.

9:12 p.m. – Tonight I have to say that dancing took a bit of a back seat for the crew, who also sang one of their songs and ended up just coming across as a cheesy boy band. Of course some of their moves were good, but compared to some of the other acts I can’t say we need to see anything else from them. Mel told them she expected more dancing from them, but did enjoy the acrobatics. Simon commended them for having the guts to come back and compete, risking that they might go from winners to losers.

9:20 p.m. – Susan. Boyle. Literally the voice of all the “Got Talent” shows ever. Susan reminds us that the show changed her life (that’s clear) and considers herself a champion for the people in the world that feel like they don’t have a voice of their own. On this season she wants to prove that second chances are worth it.

9:23 p.m. – Her performance tonight was to “Wild Horses” and was her first for Simon in nine years. The song delivery was controlled and reserved in a way that was so mature and professional. Naturally, she earned an immediate standing ovation from the entire audience and all four judges. Howie told her that her story is what every contestant dreams about having on the show. And Mel declared that Susan gives so much with her voice and that she wanted to give Susan something she deserves in return–the Golden Buzzer!

9:33 p.m. – Backstage Sofie (lovingly) brags to the other contestants that she earned a Golden Buzzer on her original season. Yes, scare them! As a contortionist she knows she has what it takes to impress again, but she’ll have to earn the votes of the 50 super fans to do it. Can she?

9:34 p.m. – In her act she not only showed off her contorting skills, but also balancing, dance and daring by spinning high above the stage within a hoop and contorting while balancing on that hoop by her lower back and then neck. Her poise throughout all of it was incredible and probably would have gotten my Golden Buzzer if I had one!

9:36 p.m. – Terry was impressed by Sofie’s athleticism and Mel pointed out that this time around she changed her act from what they already knew she could do and that made it really impressive. As a producer, Simon told her that they chose her because they knew she had more to show and would push herself.

9:41 p.m. – Finally Preacher Lawson is up! I love love loved him on his original season and he’s been teasing us all episode with conversations backstage with the other contestants. Before going on he explains going from broke to selling out shows across the country ever since AGT. Tonight his goal is to show that he’s gotten better than he was and, of course, to win.

9:44 p.m. – In his set, Preacher managed to cover a lot of bases–jokes about being vegan, dating a white girl and what it means to be a black man. He had the judges and audience roaring with laughter during his actual set, but if you ask me the thing that makes him truly great is that he is just as funny before and after his sets when he’s off the cuff in conversation with the judges. Heidi said she didn’t remember him, but that tonight he was on fire. And, well, she also got him to discuss his super tight pants and booty drop so, like… ya, he should advance to the final.

9:53 p.m. – With Susan already through to the finals, the 50 super fans had nine acts in front them to select as the only other act from the episode to join her. We did not get to see the super fans, but Terry did tell us who they chose as the top 3 of the night: Bianca Ryan, Preacher Lawson and Sofie Dossi!

9:56 p.m. – In the end, third place went to Sofie. At that point, Terry told the final two that Bianca was most popular in the West and Preacher was successful among women under the age of 34. But the one that earned enough support to advance to the finals is Preacher Lawson! Yessssssss! A great result in my opinion. What do y’all think? Did the right two advance or is there an act or acts you think should have made it instead? You know the drill–sound off in the comments below!

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