NEW YORK – NBC's got a summer hit.
Nearly 12.5 million viewers tuned in to see jugglers, tumblers, a rappin' granny, a break-dancing cow and dozens of other one-of-a-kind acts audition for the chance to win a million bucks on "America's Got Talent," the new talent-search series with the grammatically challenged title.
The show's two-hour premiere was the highest-rated program of the night Wednesday, according to Nielsen numbers released yesterday.
It's "got" three judges - two men and a woman - including one, British pseudo-celeb Piers Morgan, who serves as kind of a light-weight, summer Simon whose harsh treatment of hapless auditioners earned boos and catcalls from the studio audience.
Pop singer Brandy fills the Paula Abdul role as the "nice" judge who frequently allowed acts to advance to the next stage based on how much the audience liked them.
And by process of elimination, "Baywatch" star David Hasselhoff is this show's Randy Jackson, although Hasselhoff didn't call anybody "dawg" in the series premiere. The closest he came was when he addressed one of the contestants as "pal."
As for Regis, he's amiable and bland - in short, he's Ryan Seacrest in 43 years.
But unlike "Idol," "America's Got Talent" had almost no singing, except for a young man who sang a rousing gospel number (he advanced) and an elderly harpist who simultaneously sang opera (she did not).
Among the acts that passed their auditions were a shirtless juggler, an illusionist who "cooked" himself in a self-styled "Microwave of Death," and a group of five, high-flying young men from Houston who passed and dunked basketballs while leaping and tumbling in midair.
Among the losers was a man dressed as a Napoleonic hobo (I kid you not) who played something called a "nose flute."
The judges booted him before he could finish playing "Tip-Toe Through the Tulips."