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Why ArcAttack Failed to Make the Finals of America's Got Talent

Updated on August 25, 2010

Unique Act Bows Out in Semifinals

ArcAttack is a "performing arts" act that made the semifinals during Season 5 of America's Got Talent. The act uses Tesla coils to play music through electricity. Obviously just by the description of the act, it is no surprise that Arc Attack was widely praised for being one of the most unique contestants in the history of the show. The guys, who come from Austin, Texas, were also widely considered to be a suitable act for Las Vegas. However, after advancing to the semifinals, the group failed to make the Top 5 and advance to the finals during the fifth season of America's Got Talent.

So why is it that an act that appeared to be so unique ( a very good quality for talent contests) and suitable for Vegas (the show routinely stresses the desirability of having a Vegas-appropriate act) lost out to acts like 12-year-old dancers Anna and Patryk, who are not nearly as unique and don't seem to fit into the Vegas scene?

For starters, singers simply have an advantage on America's Got Talent. This is simply undeniable by looking at the history of the show. All acts except Terry Fator (ironically the most successful contestant by far after the show) were singing soloists, and even Fator "sang" through his impersonating puppets. In this case, a very average Christina and Ali got more votes than ArcAttack in the semifinals. No matter what ArcAttack is, many seem surprised that such a unique and refreshing act could lose out to such average singers. Well, the singer "advantage" certainly plays a part. But that is not necessarily the whole story.

In addition to being singing sisters, Christina and Ali have a major backstory that was rammed down watchers' throats time and again -- they have cystic fibrosis. In other words, many fans cry "sympathy vote" when they think of Christina and Ali. Indeed, Connor Doran, the other contestant who lost out on the final spot to the sisters, has his own little backstory--he has epilepsy. Certainly, sympathy votes were cast for Christina and Ali, but part of the problem is the people who cast sympathy votes don't really think of it as depriving a more talented act of a shot at the America's Got Talent finals. They just look at it as supporting a sympathetic act.

As a fan, it is best to keep in mind that the competition doesn't legitimately start until the finals. That is the real competition. Up to that point, there are simply too many voters who vote on backstories or other popularity-based reasons. To keep sanity while watching this show, it is best to understand that a group like Arc Attack is just too "out there" for the average viewer to vote for. Many voters will only vote for a singer or maybe a dancer. That's just the way it is.

Note: This is not necessarily all bad news for ArcAttack. If there is a place for them in Vegas, they certainly have had enough exposure up to this point to get the attention of Vegas hotel and resort executives. In fact, Recycled Percussion, a unique drum act that finished third during the fourth season of AGT, just announced their new Las Vegas show at the MGM Grand. So these unique acts that fail to win still have a shot by using AGT as a kind of audition for Vegas resorts. Indeed, Jabbawockeez, a hip hop dance act that finished way out of the running in the first season of America's Got Talent, now appears in its own Vegas show.

There are some other potential reasons that could have prevented ArcAttack to make the finals. First of all, the focus on a Vegas act only exists because Terry Fator signed a huge $100 million contract for his own Vegas show. Since then, AGT mentions Vegas ad nauseam in the attempt to score a huge backend deal for a contestant.

But the truth is, that doesn't mean the voting public cares. In fact, many people, including myself, largely discount this attempt by the show to sway the vote. I simply don't care what happens to these contestants after the show or whether the management behind the show banks a huge deal. I only care about talent--period. And talent comes in many shapes and sizes, some of it ripe for a Vegas act and some of it not so ripe. While ArcAttack was in my personal Top 5 during the semifinals, they really weren't much ahead of Christina and Ali, who I had in my sixth spot on the night (without sympathy).

And the reason I don't have ArcAttack higher is because I look for talent. ArcAttack's act is based more on scientific knowledge than talent. Rather than being a talent act, they are more like what you would expect from a sound or special-effects expert. Simply put, the performances they put on should be PART of an overall act that incorporates more singing or other elements. In my opinion, they have the makings of a show, but the "talent" part of the show would be supplied by people who have talent instead of "knowledge" about how to use Tesla coils to create music. These are the engineers behind the scenes, not the talented professionals you expect to see on stage. While they are very professional about what they do, I think other normal people could be taught to do the same thing. Where I think they do score high is in entertainment value. But again, that is not the same thing as talent.

So, while sympathy votes, the singer advantage and other factors may have contributed to ArcAttack's failing to make the finals of America's Got Talent, these guys are knowledgeable and have the makings of a very good show. If they hook up with other professionals to streamline and diversify the act (they just started doing this with the female zombie in the semifinal performance), then I would not be the least bit surprised to see these guys moving from Austin to Vegas in the very near future. But that doesn't mean they have the kind of "talent" to win a million dollars in a variety talent show.


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