This article contains information that could be considered too revealing according to our spoiler policy. Proceed with caution. You can't unsee it!Reason The show doesn't premiere until the day after this post's publication; we got a screener.
Should You Wish Upon A Star?
It's going to take more than wishes to make this thing worth watching.
What Is This Thing?
Quasi-abused foster kid Star wants to be a, you guessed it, star! She convinces her case worker to "process her out of the system," then tracks down her half-sister Simone, who's been placed in a different foster home. One knife attack on a rapist later, Star and Simone are on the road to Atlanta with avid Instagram user and secret music industry scion Alexandra, the third member of their girl-group-to-be. Soon they're living with Carlotta, whom if you watch this show (which you really shouldn't) you will never call "Carlotta" since she is played by Queen Latifah. Carlotta and the sisters' late mother were best friends and a musical act before, as semi-failed music manager Jahil (Benjamin Bratt) puts it, she "gained all that weight." Will Jahil catapult this new, younger, and skinnier trio to stardom? Will the injured rapist track the girls down? Should you care?
When Is It On?
After a special premiere on Wednesday, December 14 at 9 PM ET, it will take over Empire's time slot starting January 4.
Why Was It Made Now?
Because 2016 hasn't sucked enough? To erode the last bit of goodwill you might feel toward Benjamin Bratt? To make every other show on TV look great in comparison?
This is all fanciful speculation, of course: the real answer is that show creator Lee Daniels (of Empire, Precious, and The Butler fame) has a lucrative development deal with 20th Century Fox Television, which means that contractually he's required to come up with TV shows like this one.
It certainly doesn't hurt that Empire, another show that claims to depict the music industry, is a ratings success: even though its overall numbers have dropped significantly in its third season, it's still a regular time slot winner. If one music biz show from Lee Daniels is working, why not try two?
What's Its Pedigree?
Daniels's Star co-creator is Tom Donaghy, of whom I am certain you have never heard. He's written a couple of episodes of The Mentalist, and previously created a show called The Whole Truth, which starred Rob Morrow and Maura Tierney and was put out of its misery after four episodes. The show's other executive producers are Pamela Oas Williams (who created Stand Up To Cancer), Luke Cage vet Charles Murray, and, perhaps most upsettingly, the great Effie T. Brown. Yes, the same Effie Brown who made the most recent season of Project Greenlight worth watching. Oh, Effie. I hope they paid you extremely well.
You guys, this show is awful. Every performance, with two exceptions, is tragically amateur, a situation aggravated by the execrable dialogue. One might be able to overlook some of those issues (maybe?) if the show actually attempted accomplish what it claims to: according the show's own press materials, this show seeks "to pull back the curtain on music’s gritty and dark reality."
Instead, however, we're presented with a plot that makes laughably little sense, and inexplicably jumps from event to event in the style of a lesser Lifetime movie. And then, suddenly, there are these Glee-esque choreographed musical numbers dropped in the middle of everything!
Here's just one of the 5962535151 examples of sloppiness I could provide you from the pilot: following the tepid reaction of their audience at what appeared to be an open-mic night at a country bar, the trio's colleague at Carlotta's hair salon (because of course she owns a hair salon, at which the girls work off their lodgings) convinces the girls to seek temporary employment at the strip club where she also works, because that's where all the Atlanta music industry insiders hang out. Oh, and did I mention that this moonlighting stripper hair salon staffer is also Carlotta's transgender daughter? (Let the countdown to the agonizing scene in which Carlotta calls her "boy" begin!)
Somehow, the other two girls beg off, and Star ends up giving a lap dance to Jahil, when we get this insane wipe...
...to a "Lady Marmalade"-esque song-and-dance sequence, which I guess is all in Jahil's mind? And then we learn that Star was singing with the strip club music to Jahil the whole time, which I guess is what transported him to that vision? And the singing was so amazing that he offers Star and her friends, whom he has never met, a job singing at some football player's party (instead of demanding his lap dance money back, like any sane person would have). So they take the gig, the girls perform and are a big hit, and their ascent to fame begins. Gritty and dark reality, my ass.
I like Queen Latifah a lot, and she's doing the best she can. She can do the warm yet tough and no-nonsense thing she does here in her sleep, but I feel her making an effort when she could have phoned it in and still been miles better and more charismatic than anyone else in this show. She also wears a couple of really great wigs.
Benjamin Bratt is convincingly sweaty, seedy, and gross as the alleged music management professional, which I hope is acting and not the outward manifestation of a career that's failed to live up to expectations. The only time I was really engaged in the show was when he and Latifah shared a poorly-written, exposition-heavy scene and still managed to craft a bit of tension and excitement from the dreck they were handed.
There are a lot of things to be angry about in December of 2016 -- so many that a shitty TV show shouldn't even make the top ten on your list. That said, it shouldn't make the top ten of any lists: it's a lazy mess, and it's not even dumb enough to be funny. In fact, it's kind of insulting that this is being presented to us as a fully-formed piece of entertainment. Don't reward it by watching. Life is too short for junk like Star.