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

Over the next four weeks, “America’s Got Talent: The Champions” will feature 40 acts including one winner 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 four episodes will showcase 10 of these acts. The series kicks off on January 6 with a two-hour premiere packed with, dare we say it, talent.

While Terry Crews returns to host, there has been a shake-up of the judges. While Simon Cowell and Howie Mandel are still on the panel, the other two judges from last season’s “AGT” — Julianne Hough and Gabrielle Union — are gone. In their place are long-time “America’s Got Talent” judge Heidi Klum and Simon’s pal from “Britain’s Got Talent” Alesha Dixon.

SEE ‘America’s Got Talent’ winners: Where are they now updates for first 13 ‘AGT’ champions [PHOTOS]

As with the regular show, each of these will get a Golden Buzzer that will send one act straight through to the final. Three other acts will get put through each week. Two will be chosen by a group of super-fans that NBC gathered from all 50 states and one will be a judges save.

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8:02 p.m. – Welcome back for the second season featuring former contestants. What I love about this spin-off is that we get to see how the acts have improved since their first appearance. What I hate is that it isn’t up to the public vote to determine who advances to the final–it’s totally out of our hands!

8:04 p.m. – Tonight’s Golden Buzzer is in the hands of Heidi, so she’ll get to send one act of her choice straight through to the finals.

8:05 p.m. – The first act of the season was Paddy & Nicko from Britain’s Got Talent season 8 where they received the Golden Buzzer and made it all the way to the final for a 9th place finish. In a hilarious start to their performance, Paddy began from a recliner in the audience where she was napping with a little blanket. Not long after she was doing back flip tricks with Nicko on stage to Jennifer Lopez‘s “Let’s Get Loud.” Alesha, who saw the act in their original season, was still on board with their talent, but it was a fresh sight for Heidi and Howie who were both stunned. Simon thought Nicko was “a bit slower tonight,” but was still impressed.

8:14 p.m. – Next up was subway singer Mike Yung, semifinalist from season 12 of the American show. Since the show he lost the love of his life to a sudden heart attack, but his kids insisted that he come back to the show in her honor. Tonight he sang an original song that he co-wrote after his first season about the power of belief in one’s dreams. His voice was really powerful and while the stage production was on point he would have benefited from a stronger stage persona. Unlike Heidi and Alesha, Howie was not a fan of the song. Alesha made a good point though–Mike exudes humility and doesn’t bring much ego to the stage which is nice.

8:24 p.m. – Returning to the show as champions of Myanmar’s Got Talent, Junior Creative dance crew made their American debut with a sentimental contemporary dance performance using light and shadows tell the story of war and healing. Heidi appreciated that their art is both entertaining and socially conscious with a message. It was an emotional moment for the crew, but it seems like the judges were mostly lukewarm on their chances to advance.

8:35 p.m. – Did we even realized we missed Hans so much?! I really didn’t. But just his opening package had me rolling with laughter–he’s gotten so much funnier in his time since the show! Tonight he descended from the rafters on a giant banana while playing the accordion and singing and then somehow worked a tap routine into his rendition of Lizzo‘s “Juice.” Simon was not a fan though and hit his red X while the rest of the panel got to their feet for an ovation. Alesha urged Simon to not take it so seriously and made the point that the show is all about fun and that’s what Hans brings!

8:46 p.m. – Hailing from Australia’s Got Talent, Jack Vidgen came to America as the champion of the 2011 version of his series due to his incredible voice. But because he was 14 when he won the show as he grew his voice changed and began to crack as it matured, making it hard for him to continue singing. He returned tonight after training to a point where he’s comfortable with his voice again. Alesha thought he was shaky at the beginning of the song, but he grew comfortable with it as it went on and Howie believes that with the confidence he can go all the way. Simon thinks he’s better than what he did tonight and that he played it too safe.

8:57 p.m. – It was nice to hear that Tyce of Duo Transcend was able to stop the progression of his eye disease so that he will no longer go permanently blind. Tonight they promised something they’ve never done before in their trapeze act which was a double blindfold upside down one leg catch and they pulled it off to shocking perfection! Simon called their act tonight better than anything they did previously, but suggested that they continue to step up their game if they make it to the finals because he wants to see them with their own show in Vegas.

9:09 p.m. – Season 9 semifinalist comedian Dan Naturman ended on a bad final set in his original season that did not impress Heidi, but Howie is a huge fan of him. His set tonight dumped the German jokes and instead focused on being an uncle and how Facebook has changed reunions. But once again he received a red X, this time from Simon. During the critiques Dan fought back with Simon by telling him he doesn’t know anything about comedy and that seemed to have won over Simon and the rest of the panel.

9:21 p.m. – Jazz singer Angelina Jordan won Norway’s Got Talent in 2014 at the age of 7, but is looking for her big moment in America. It was her dream to sing in front of Simon and so when she sang Queen‘s “Bohemian Rhapsody” to a rapturous applause from the audience and effusive praise from the judges it was a magical moment for her. But not quite as magical as when Heidi hit her Golden Buzzer for her! That means Angelina is our first official finalist! Simon even gave her an “I don’t think you know how good you are” as she headed off stage.

9:31 p.m. – Australian strong man Eddie Williams weighs 415 pounds and can lift 260 pounds of weight, but his truest talent for the show is his immaculate singing voice. His rendition of John Legend’s “Ordinary People” did not impress Howie (who hit his red X), but the other three loved it. Simon called the whole act “bonkers,” but he does think he has a great voice and noticed that the audience enjoyed him a lot.

9:42 p.m. – The final act of the night was magician Dania Diaz, finalist of Spain’s Got Talent in 2018. She performed a card trick that also told the story of her life and career. Through shuffling the deck she still managed to use the numbers and face cards to reference dates, facts and names of the people that populated her life’s story. Alesha found her inspiring as a female magician and for managing to merge both magic and her own story in such a great way and Heidi thought it was a smart way to make herself more personable while Simon called it “amazing.”

9:54 p.m. – With only three spots left for this group of contestants, Terry announced the two acts that would advance to the semifinals based on the superfan votes. Those two acts were: Duo Transcend and Dania Diaz! That left Hans, Junior Creative and Jack Vidgen left for the judges to choose as their save. They each got one vote: Heidi picked Hans, Alesha picked Junior Creative, Simon picked Jack and so it came down to Howie’s vote… and he picked Hans!

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