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Star Search: What Are the Judges Judging?by David Bloomberg -- 01/20/2003
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In watching the first four episodes of Star Search, corresponding to three initial rounds and the first semi-final round, I still cannot figure out exactly how the judges are judging. And that, frankly, puts the show's credibility up in the air.
In American Idol, like 'em or hate 'em, all three judges know the music business. And even then once the show moves to the top 30, they don't even get to vote! But on Star Search, we have a singer who is a number of years past her prime, a comedian and all-around smart guy, and a writer/stand-up comic. Plus, of course, the guest judge - we'll get to that position later.
The singer is, of course, Naomi Judd. It appears that either she is trying to be or the producers want her to be the Simon Cowellesque villain of the show. But Simon's shtick works because he is glib and witty. Naomi Judd is anything but. Half the time her comments make no sense at all. When some sense can be made out of them, they often don't seem to actually go along with her vote. It's like her hand is voting without knowledge of what her mouth will say. In the semi-finals, she said to Naomi, the first junior singer, that she felt that she'd been touched by an angel after Naomi sang. Then she gave her four stars. Huh? Being touched by an angel doesn't rate five?
Later she complained that model contestant Andrea was too suggestive… and gave her the same four stars. First of all, she's a model wearing a skimpy bathing suit. Of course she's suggestive! What an idiotic thing to say. Second, even if we take that at face value, how does being too suggestive equate to being touched by an angel? I just don't get it.
To compound the confusion, she gave the next model, Kim, only three stars but said she has fearless self-confidence. Huh? And then Porschla only got two because she wasn't swinging enough. Excuse me, but wouldn't swinging be too suggestive? These were just examples from the semi-finals. Naomi Judd has given us such "huh?!" moments in every episode so far.
Carol Leifer, the writer/stand-up comedian, also has trouble in the model category, and practically admitted as much in the second episode. She called both Andrea and Kim stunning, but complained Andrea was too suggestive. So it would make sense that Kim would get a higher rating, right? Wrong. Both got four stars. And then Porschla got five for having "junk in the trunk." Frankly, I (and my wife) thought Porschla walked stiffly and was the worst of the bunch, so none of these make any sense to me.
Ben Stein tends to make more sense and is, frankly, the most objective of the bunch. But then we have the special guest judge. Ugh.
The guest judge, in case you haven't been watching every day, is different every episode. The semi-finals guest was Tyrese. Previous judges have been Lance Bass, Jack Osbourne, and Chaka Khan. There are several problems here. First, each guest judge is going to look at things differently. A prime example of this is Tyrese, who judged on such idiotic factors as how a young girl dressed or whether a singer closed her eyes in the right way while singing. He gave a particular model a higher score because, he said, black men like a big butt. There was not even an attempt at objectivity - it was all what Tyrese liked, period. It also didn't help that he admitted he had not seen the first two episodes.
Chaka Khan, the first judge, clearly had no idea how to vote for the models. Jack Osbourne practically was drooling and voted based on beauty as far as I could tell (although he rated them evenly so it was the same as if he weren't even there). And so it goes.
Sure, the audience gets half the power, and several times that has been enough to swing the vote to somebody the judges were not particularly fond of, for whatever reason. But sometimes it isn't enough to overcome a strange ranking by Naomi Judd or the guest-of-the-night.
If CBS retools Star Search after its limited run this month, they would be wise to remove the model category altogether. Sure, having half-naked women strutting around seems like a sure way to increase ratings, but this is the family hour of television - I noticed the camera kept cutting away from Andrea, whose butt was hanging half out of her swimsuit in the semi-finals, whenever she would turn in a direction that would have given viewers a full view. And, frankly, I don't think teenage boys are really going to tune in just to see a few seconds of models. If they remove this category, it gives them more time to use for other things, since they won't be so rushed (as they have been numerous times, not just in the semi-finals).
One of the reasons American Idol was such a hit - which is what caused this revival of Star Search to begin with - is that we got to know the contestants and judges somewhat. Maybe Naomi Judd's comments would make more sense if she had more than two seconds to spit 'em out. OK, I doubt it, but you never know. Maybe we'd better understand why contestants get the votes they get. And maybe the contestants themselves would have a few more minutes to get their own personalities across - most important to the stand-up comics, who may need more than two minutes and three jokes to get rolling.
I would further recommend doing away with the guest judge, or making it a position that sticks around for an entire round so the judging is more even.
Star Search has definitely found some talent in only its first few episodes. But in order to find credibility, something has to be done about the judges.
David Bloomberg is the Editor of RealityNewsOnline, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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