Heading into its normal night and time, FOX’s new series “Star” has a lot going for it. Not only is Lee Daniels attached as Executive Producer to the new show, the star power (pun intended) is one to be reckoned with. With names like Queen Latifah, Benjamin Bratt and Tyrese Gibson in the cast, fans have a lot to sink their teeth into with the pop music-infused drama.
Yet, with all the talent involved, it’s worth noting that “Star” — for all intents and purposes — is a cheesy, musical, primetime soap opera… And when you fully accept that fact, the glorious entertainment provided by that subject matter is easier to swallow.
“Star” is a story about a young woman by the name of Star Davis (Jude Demorest), whose dream of becoming a famous pop star outweighs any sort of moral fiber one would hope to find in a TV show’s female lead. Her story is one of consistent pain and survival which finds both her and her sister Simone (Brittany O’Grady) in and out of the foster care system.
That one detail is integral to the throughline of the story thus far, as Star commits murder — getting all stabby in the first ten minutes of the series pilot, at that! — to save Simone from her abusive foster father. It’s that moment, along with her own struggles with abuse, that leads them on a trip to Atlanta, Georgia in search of music fame, which doing their best to run from their past.
When thinking about “Star,” it’d be easy to compare the Lee Daniels series to both “Dreamgirls” and “Showgirls,” walking a fine line between the drama of the first, and cheeseball nature of the second.
The random imaginary musical interludes — seemingly a mainstay, to continue through every episode of the season — further adds to the fun, trashy, hard-to-take-serious vibe of the 1995 strip-tease themed drama, while the issues of sexual abuse, drug addiction and inclusion lean heavily towards the Oscar-winning musical.
And while “Star” is a show about the lengths Star, her sister Simone and Instagram friend Alexandra (Ryan Destiny) will go in hopes of musical greatness, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the power of Queen Latifah’s performance as Carlotta Brown. If anything, it’s her heavy hitter status — acting and singing talent, alike — that gives “Star” a nice bit of dramatic weight. And boy is her presence necessary here!
Wednesday’s (Jan. 4) episode proves this as, audiences will get a decent dose of both Lenny Kravitz and Naomi Campbell as Alexandra’s superstar parents. What you end up getting, though, is Kravitz doing his best Lenny Kravitz impersonation while Campbell throws in an inspiring attempt at constantly acting drunk. You may think this sounds like an attack on the show, but in fact, it makes things all the more entertaining.
And let’s not forget Benjamin Bratt’s role as Jahil Rivera. Sure he has been known to deliver on the acting front, but there’s something odd about watching him play a washed up talent manager with a drug habit he can’t quite kick. Then again, with Latifah holding it down on the musical dramatic front, Bratt’s performance is all too reminiscent of Kyle MacLachlan’s take on Zack Carey in “Showgirls.”
The one detail we still take issue with is Star Davis herself. It’s not that Demorest’s performance is lacking in talent, but in an underdog story such as this, we’d like to be able to root for the lead as we go with her on this journey. But, it’s still so early in the series and, so far, she’s made one ridiculously awful decision after another.
Still, as much as we’d like to knock it, it seems as if “Star” has quickly turned into our newest TV obsession.
In the end, we’re not quite sure yet that “Star” will be the go-to drama folks will be clamoring for on Wednesday nights. But, with a focus on fun musical numbers and jaw-dropping soap opera-like plot points, it feels like the perfect show to add to FOX’s lineup while “Empire” enjoys its winter hiatus.
“Star” airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on FOX.