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Star Search, January 17 – Back for More in 2004by Donna Reynolds -- 01/19/2004
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“Right now, somewhere in America, singers and dancers are warming up for Star Search.” Or so the pre-show tease promises. Yes, folks, it’s here—the premiere of this season’s Star Search, and we are ready to get started!
Backed by an almost inaudible voiceover, quick shots are shown of Britney, Justin, and Christina – all of whom got their inauspicious starts on Star Search. We are told that nine winners are returning from last season and start off in the “Winners’ Circle” where they will do everything they can defeat their challengers. “I’m going to come out like a banshee,” one former contestant warns.
Host Arsenio Hall takes the stage and, after blessing the audience, welcomes us all to a brand new season. “We’re back for more in 2004,” he declares! He tells us that CBS has taken the show and made it even better, impossible as that may seem. After taking shots at Britney and Botox, he introduces us to the judges.
Naomi Judd, recent runner-up for the “Worst Judge” award on the 2003 Reality Hall of Shame Year in Review Awards, is the only judge returning from last year. TV producer and “all around player,” Matti Leshem, and Grammy nominated rapper and actress, MC Lyte, have been added to the panel. With no additional information, we are left wondering who they are.
After a little Googling, I learn that Matti Leshem was the "brains" behind AntEye.com, a site that attempted to create TV pilots and films based on suggestions from site visitors. That shut down after eight months. From there, he moved on to become a vice president with Diplomatic Productions (creators of Who Wants to be a Millionaire.) He didn't last long there either. In the fall of 2003, he became the president and CEO of Protagonist. I have no idea what they do! Matti looks like a cross between “Robert Romano” from ER and Tony, the bachelor with sculpted sideburns, from Average Joe 2.
M.C. Lyte started rapping at 12 and released her first album in 1988. She was nominated for a Grammy in 1993 for her single “Ruffneck,” and is up for Best Female Rap Solo this year for the song “Ride Wit Me” from her album Da Underground Heat Vol. 1. M.C. has also done some acting (Moesha and New York Undercover) and is a social activist as well. Busy gal.
Once the judges are introduced, Arsenio explains the “new twist” on this year’s show – the “Winners’ Circle.” Three performers from last season will stand in the “Winners’ Circle” for each of the three categories. Two new performers in each category will compete and the winner of that round will then challenge one of the people from the “WC” to perform for the judges. Whoever gets the most stars will go back to the circle and come back the next week, possibly to be challenged again. This actually sounds more complicated than it plays out but we’ll get to that.
The “Winners’ Circles” are actually round platforms where these challengers stand, proudly wearing their medals from last season. But they are shown in shadow so we don’t actually see them.
Finally, Arsenio is ready to introduce the first performer of the evening in the Junior Singers category, Spensha Baker, a ten-year-old from Killeen, Texas. Spensha has chosen a gospel tune and she just belts it out. Her voice is clear and full-bodied and she has great energy. The song, “Love Can Move Mountains,” is age-appropriate, perfect for her voice and she shines. She sure moved me!
Naomi blathers, “Twinkle, twinkle little star of the future,” and compares this performance to the first time Cissy Houston heard her daughter Whitney sing.
Matti says Spensha moved him and that he is very impressed. MC is equally impressed and calls Spensha a “Yolanda Adams in the making.” She’s right! This girl is all that.
Spensha’s score – 13 Stars (5-4-5) Arsenio’s “Hit me with the digits” is wearing thin already and it was only the first time this year!
NOTE: The individual scores represent each individual judge’s score in order that they spoke, I think.
But wait, there’s no Internet viewer voting? Well, how could there be? CBS has yet to update the Star Search, website making it impossible for that to take place. Cheesy or what?
Okay, Arsenio introduces the next performer, Bianca (and I apologize to her family, I have no idea what her last name is since Arsenio sort of slurred over it and for some unknown reason, they do not print the names of the contestants on the screen). Bianca, who is from Philadelphia, is nine and Arsenio says that she can “sang.” Where have we heard that before?
Bianca has chosen the song “Impossible Dream” from “Man of LaMancha” and gets right into it. The song is totally wrong for a nine-year-old and, although she has the skills, she is way over the top dramatically and seems somewhat stiff and wooden. It’s definitely the wrong song choice, that’s for sure. Spensha should have no problem with this round.
Again, Naomi goes first and says she thinks Bianca has a commercial sound and calls her a “vocal drama queen.” Matti thinks she is technically gifted but that her performance lacked spirit and her movements were stilted. Naomi interrupts to inform us that Matti’s “inner child has a diaper rash!” M.C. thinks the girl is comfortable in her own skin and calls her vocals “warm.” “Broadway all the way,” she finishes.
Bianca scores a 12 (4-3-5) so Spensha takes the round.
Now for the “Winners’ Circle.” We are introduced to the three young people who will be the challengers – David Archuleta, Molly Bouchard, and Mark Mejia. Each contestant has an opportunity to talk briefly about how their lives have changed since appearing on the show last year and they are all excited to be back. Mark is adorable (he looks like a mini-Harlemm Lee) and David says great things have happened for him. We see him singing the National Anthem somewhere. Molly says everyone recognizes her and she is very excited to have another chance to compete.1 2 3 Next-->
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