Star Premiere Fox Review

Star Recap: Is Lee Daniels' Empire Follow-Up Deserving of an Encore?

This Wednesday, Fox pressed play on Star, Lee Daniels’ follow-up to Empire. Will you return for an encore performance?

Touted as almost a companion piece to Empire — except that it follows young singers who can only hope to one day roar like Lyons — Star opened by quickly introducing us to two of its central three: the title character (played by Jude Demorest), a white girl who lives in Pittsburgh and has been clanging around the foster care system for years, and Alexandra (Ryan Destiny), a New York-based singer/songwriter she met “on the ‘Gram” (and who is hiding the fact that her dad, played by Lenny Kravitz, is a famous recording artist). The girls’ aim is to meet up and make it big, a plan Star fast-tracks by bailing on her verbally abusive, Straight Out of Central Casting foster fam and beseeching social services to give her the 411 on her half-sister, Simone (Brittany O’Grady).

A few threatsstar-queen-latifah and impassioned pleas later, Star is arriving in Harrisburg just in time to save Simone from being (again) sexually assaulted by her own foster dad — by plunging a kitchen knife into the cretin’s back! The reunited kin then race off to rendezvous with Alexandra and make tracks for Atlanta, where they show up at a hair salon run by Carlotta (Queen Latifah). Having once been part of a girl group with Star and Simone’s ill-fated, drug-addicted mom, Mary, Carlotta is embraced as a mother figure to the girls (self-medicating Simone, especially), and in that capacity offers them a place to stay.

Itching to start making a name for themselves, Star, Simone and Alexandra first suss out and perform at a nearby club’s “amateur night.” They get rescued from that lame situation by one of Carlotta’s staffers, Cotton (Amiyah Scott), who points the girls to a strip club where she moonlights. Cotton suggests that a strong showing in the “Champagne room” with producer Jahil Rivera (Benjamin Bratt) could get the trio’s career on track.

Not-shy Star seizes the opportunity to squeeze into some Spandex and give Jahil a helluva private show, which (oddly, and Glee-like) dissolves into a glossy, full-blown music video performance. Whatever the case, Jahil is impressed by Star’s croon-and-grind, so he invites the girls’ “package deal” to sing at a house party being thrown by an NFL player.

On her way home from the fortuitous hook-up, Star saves Cotton from a beatdown at the hands of a man who was shocked to learn she was transgender. The shiner Cotton sports the next day at the salon triggers a talking-to from Carlotta, who apparently had some issues with her “boy” and his chosen identity. (Star meanwhile accuses stylist Miss Bruce of “racism” when her “white” intrusion is called into question.) Carlotta later shows up at Jahil’s modest digs to warn him, with a gun, to steer clear of the girls, lest they succumb to the same mistakes they and Mary did back in the day.star-benjamin-bratt

That very serious threat aside, the house party gig is apparently still on! Swathed in sequins and sparkly heels, Star, Alexandra and (a drunk) Simone deliver a crowd-pleasing performance at the NFL star’s mansion — all the more remarkable given how they were sashaying in and out of hallways and rubbing up against partygoers the entire time they sang, with zero mics. But an impression was made, as Jahil sees in the girl group his one last chance at shepherding hitmakers.

Or will the girls’ past come back to haunt them? [Cue thunderclap] We are left to wonder just that in a final teaser scene, where Simone’s foster dad awakens in a hospital, alive, and is asked to recount his stabbing….

 

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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11 Comments
  1. laurelnev says:

    I think you hit the nail on the head there…it’s like Empire Meets Glee! If they get past all of the tropes the 1st ep used. this could be a fun slot-holder while Empire is on hiatus, and far superior than previous interlude-fillers.

  2. Nathan Everett says:

    Loved it immediately. Living in Atlanta they hit the nail on the head. More please. The girls are so real

  3. CK says:

    I thought it was ridiculous, but fun like Empire Season 1 was. That being said, I do have an issue with Simone and Star. They need both need to be reeled in a bit. Simone seems like she is going to snap and murder everybody. I get that she has substance abuse issues, but she seemed like she needed to be in a mental hospital for most of the episode.
    Meanwhile, Star seems like she is impervious to anything that happened in the last scene. She’s completely unaffected about stabbing a guy (to death in her mind) and I’m not sure if I liked how thirsty they made her character in the last dance number. Isn’t she still 17? I don’t want to say “gold digger”, but it felt like her interest in men were solely based off of their status and how they could further her career.

    • Matt Webb Mitovich says:

      Good point on the age; Star was waiting to turn 18 in opening scene, before bailing on foster fam to find sister. Must still be 17. (Alexandra, too, I imagine, ergo trying to get her trust fund “early.”)

      • johnhelvete says:

        The producers might have changed it by the time they started filming but the original casting description for Alexandra (which I believe was posted on this site) described Alexandra as “about 20”.

  4. Jason says:

    The show moved too fast. Felt like the pacing was just sporadic.

  5. K says:

    It was a hot mess, but sort of in a fun way. There was just too much of everything. We need some real character development and soon.

  6. KLS says:

    I bailed after 30 minutes. I didn’t know going in that it was going to be a musical-drama. Especially one with bad lipsynching and even worse dialog. More Glee-like then Empire. Very disappointed.

  7. Twokeets says:

    I kept fixating on the singing–how could they prance all over the house and sound loud and clear like they were standing in the middle of a stage? Is it no secret they were lip-synching? Was it supposed to be a musical fantasy? All these thoughts kind of took me out of the drama. I sort of liked the actual music of the song, but everything else seemed a bit messy.