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Star Search, Episode 1: Let the Competition Begin!by Peggy Keller & Sting7 -- 01/09/2003
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CBS's old talent show Star Search is back and updated (sort of) for the new centrury. Gone is old fogey Ed McMahon; instead, nearhasbeen Arsenio Hall has been crowned new host. Arsenio has always been a world class ass-kisser, with an edge, so he should do really great on this show. Also, let's not forget the star he "discovered" on his own previous show - Bill Clinton on the saxophone. And on this version of the show, we don't have silent voting. This is all new, yet strangely familiar…
The five-week series (two episodes each week, Wednesday and Thursday, until the final week) starts with clips of previous contestants on Star Search, such as Christina Aguilera, Drew Carey, Britney Spears, Kevin James, Justin Timberlake, and others who were on the show in the early ages. This time, the winners of each show go on to a semi-final round along with the winners of two other shows. Then they do it again for another four shows (three initial rounds and a semi-final). And then we have the finals. The final winner in each category will win one hundred thousand dollars and perks including a modeling contract, a recording contract, a CBS development deal, etc.
Arsenio starts with a few jokes, something about how him going live is like putting Trent Lott on Def Comedy Jam. Mistakes will happen. He jokes about half of the audience being CBS censors who are as nervous as Bobby Brown at a Whitney Houston interview.
Eight performers per night will do their thing. Adult Singer, Junior Singer, Model, and Comedian are the categories. They will be judged from one to five stars by three permanent celebrity judges, one guest celebrity judge, and the audience - who will have about five minutes to vote online and will count as half of the overall total. Oh, and if you're in the Mountain or Pacific time zone, don't bother - the results are already in by the time you even see the show.
The three permanent judges are country singer Naomi Judd, staunch conservative and former game show host Ben Stein (Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?), and Carol Leifer, a Seinfeld pal and comedienne. The guest judge this episode is Chaka Khan.
We begin the junior singer category with 12-year old Eric Kidd. He is a rapper and performs the song "Basketball" by Lil Bow Wow.
Peggy: My daughter (who listens to that music) says he sounded more like Lil Romeo than Lil Bow Wow, but he was good. Eric had a lot of energy and great stage presence. He was very confident and was having fun.
Sting7: Yes, it is a rap song. Yes, he is rapping it. He dances like a dream, oozing with stage presence, and it is dead-on perfect with the rap. Problem. It's rap. Many people question whether rapping is actually talent. This is foolish, but it could cost him some votes.
Next we meet 13-year-old Meaghan Markert. Megan sings "Ave Maria."
Peggy: She is incredibly talented. Her stage presence is stilted, but she looks radiant, sounds like Charlotte Church, and is simply amazing. I am really wowed that this little kid can sing like this. It makes for an interesting comparison: rap vs. opera.
Sting7: She has a lovely voice, a couple of teeny glitches, but nothing major. But, her stage presence consist of a couple of stewardess-like hand motions. "Ave Maria" is tough, if this were gymnastics, I'd say her base mark is higher because of it. But, this ain't gymnastics.
The show goes to commercial, and this is when viewers are supposed to run immediately to their computers and vote - because they only have a few minutes. Peggy voted for Meaghan, figuring that stage movement can be easily taught, but raw talent like hers is rare. One nice thing about this show is that we find out immediately who will go on to the next round. The audience votes via www.cbs.com/star and when the commercial is over we find that Meaghan receives a total of 34 stars to Eric's 32 and so she wins and will come back for the semi-final. This was a bit of an upset! Eric couldn't quite hide his shock. Rap did him in.
Next we have the modeling competition and it should be tossed. It basically comes down to who is hotter and can walk down an aisle well. What are they judging exactly? No one is sure. It's very difficult to describe.
Melanie Molnar, who is 19, goes first.
Peggy: She does not look like a super model. I don't find her sexy, she is more girl next door and extremely skinny. So skinny that when it is time to be judged Carol Leifer makes a joke about models and anorexia.
Sting7: Oh, for crying out loud, they said she was pretty, Chaka Khan clearly wasn't sure what she was looking for…
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