HOLLYWOOD—Man, I’ve seen more teasers and more trailers for this TV series than anything I can recall in the past 15 years. So it was obvious I would tune into this new FOX series by “Empire” creator Lee Daniels. The big question of the hour is rather the series is a carbon copy of “Empire,” with new faces or does it have its own strands of DNA? Well, it’s a bit of both. The musical drama stars June Demorest as Star Davis a teen who has been in and out of foster homes throughout her life, with aspirations of being a ‘star.’
While Star has the voice, she is just one-third, of the girl group that consists of her half-sister Simone (Brittany O’Grady), who has also been in foster care, suffering at the hands of her abusive foster father. Another member of the group whose aspirations don’t make much sense in the beginning is Alexandra ‘Alex’ Crane (Ryan Destiny), who comes from an affluent background. Her parents are portrayed with luxury by Lenny Kravitz and supermodel Naomi Campbell.
Two standouts who will capture the audience’s attention are Queen Latifah and Benjamin Bratt. Latifah portrays Carlotta Brown, a mother figure to the ladies and she is tough as nails and goes toe-to-toe, with down on his luck talent manager Jahil Rivera (Bratt). The episode kicked off with Star having a conversation with Alex about linking up to ensure they survive. Alex was not pleased with her family situation, but Alex attempted to persuade her father to allow her to link with this undiscovered talent.
Star managed to escape her unending life, and travel to Pittsburgh to locate her sister, who was being assaulted by her foster father. It was a tense and shocking scene to say the least, but Star did the unthinkable to rescue her sister, by grabbing a large butcher knife and stabbing the guy to death, and the sisters escaped on the road. I will acknowledge the thought of Star getting away with murder without someone even looking for her was far-fetched. Daniel’s ability to provide a bit of grit to Star, with personality and a drive to push against all odds that might be standing in their way.
We’re looking at three women looking to establish their lives from the bottom up; Alex covering her true heritage, just as Simone and Star butted heads over their predicament. Carlotta let her voice be heard loud and clear in church, and found her world rocked when she came face-to-face with Simone and Star, brought her to tears.
Carlotta was not fond to see the daughters of her dear pal focusing their energies on starting a singing career. Seeing that moment of Starr go off on the ladies in the hair salon to prove that she is no pushover, finally, about 30 minutes in we hear some music that actually gives goosebumps, as its apparent that these three ladies have something special. Alexandra found herself impressed with the boy next door, while Star found herself inside a strip club tantalizing Jahil with her voice and dance moves, and the charm worked.
Wow, Carlotta’s daughter is actually a boy, and it became apparent that she is a bad influence on Star, and when Carlotta and her staff heard about Jahil, she was livid. Alex and Star battled over what song or songs they should sing to mesmerize, but it was apparent Star’s dreams are not Simone’s. It was apparent that Jahil and Carlotta have a past, connected to Star’s mother. So for viewers we are in the making of a superstar girl group, but at the same time, it seems slightly familiar and we will see egos and motives clash as these women determine what suits best for them, not the group.
While the first episode delivers plenty for audiences to salivate on, the punch was not big enough to totally sell me on the show just yet. While Daniels created magic with “Empire,” “Star” has potential, but the firepower with personalities is not as dynamic as one would expect, at least from episode one.