Henning Fog
June 25, 2009 AT 02:27 PM EDT

Last night’s episode of America’s Simon Cowell-less version of Britain’s Got Talent was immediately more satisfying than Tuesday’s premiere for a few reasons.

#1 – Length: You could cram a two-hour talent show (like Tuesday’s premiere) full of the most objectively talented people in the world (not Tuesday’s premiere) and it would still be a two-hour talent show. This isn’t Transformers 2, guys. Brevity is the soul of OMG DID YOU SEE THAT CRAZY JUMPING DOG!?!

#2 – Kids: Better and more professional than their debut-episode counterparts, last night’s kids showed the nation that rhythm is king. Did you see Eric and Rickie? Dancing 8-year-olds whose polished choreography and will-they-won’t-they hand-holding made for a legitimately captivating performance (and an easy “yes” from the three judges). And no back stories! No cutting to parents offstage! My money so far is on these two to win the $1 million, or the Sea-Doo family pack, or whatever the grand prize is. Billy Elliot fan Arcadian Broad was also pretty dynamite and offered the night’s most heartfelt talking head (he just wants to “show everyone I do have something great inside of me to give out”). Niagara Falls.

#3 – Nick Cannon went an entire hour without mentioning his wife or the things he’d like to do to her: Self-explanatory.

#4 – The emergence of fun audition-round drinking games: Here’s an easy one: Drink every time a contestant introduction is flipped completely on its head, like when a stay-at-home mom is revealed to be a yodeling dominatrix or a young lady with the “most unique talent she knows” turns out to be carting her twin around in a suitcase. Or take a shot for every “thank you very much” uttered by the judges as they try not to hurt the feelings of a recently XXX-ed contestant.

One more thing: As I watched the cavalcade of “talent” gracing the AGT stage, I was struck by the catchphrase used by champion of democracyDavid Hasselhoff, whose signature line — “You guys are what this showis all about!” — raises more questions than answers. What IS this showall about, anyway? What is the criterion by which contestants are beingjudged? Is it raw talent? Perseverance? Fun? SO MANY QUESTIONS. America’s Got Talent feels a little directionless in this post-Susan Boyle world, where the rules of realityengagement have changed completely.

Next week we’ll focus more closely on individual performances, but this opening week seemed right for a breezy orientation as we all find our Season 4 footing. With that in mind, one last pro-tip: following along with other fans on Twitter can turn a solitary AGT experience into a uniquely communal one. Who can’t rally behind these?:

We are opinionated, but we are strong. God Bless America! What’d you think of auditions, PopWatchers? Are you surprised that AGT hasn’t changed things up a bit to try and capture some of the mania surrounding its British counterpart? How exactly do you define the “talent” in America’s Got Talent?

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