Hit or Sh**: FOX’s STAR
In this Crossfader series, our intricate and complex rating system will tell you definitively whether new television pilots are worth your valuable time. We call it: HIT OR SH**.
STAR attempts to explain and reflect upon the insanity of fame, but it so often feels less like introspection and more like a self-vivisection: a messy, painful operation that quickly becomes overwhelming and disorganized. The first two episodes throw so much heavy shit at the viewer with almost no context or build-up, spending almost all of their energy on eliciting gasps rather than expanding on the subject matter.
STAR chronicles the rise of its eponymous hero Star Davis (Jude Demorest), her sister Simone (Brittany O’Grady), and her Instagram friend Alexandra (Ryan Destiny) into the world of being famous for making music. The nature of fame is one of my favorite subjects; what society does to the celebrities it spawns can be so fascinating. STAR tries to discuss as many aspects of stardom as possible, and in the process fails to make any definitive point or generate any real excitement despite the density of the story.
Maybe Lee Daniels created STAR to be the ugly friend that makes EMPIRE look better?
Within the first episode, Star runs away from her foster home, illegally obtains her sister’s address from her social worker, seemingly murders her sister’s foster father/rapist, meets Alexandra for the first time outside of Instagram, and drives with the two of them to Atlanta to stay with a woman who makes them work in a hair salon. Keeping all of that material in a focused, coherent story would be hard enough without the addition of musical numbers, but of course those are mandatory. The songs are honestly the high point of STAR, because at least pop music doesn’t need good writing to be enjoyable.
The main problem with the script is the pacing. A lot of what’s been happening on STAR has been pretty interesting in and of itself, but so many of these potentially fascinating plot lines are cut down by the story’s breakneck pace. Just when it seems like we’re about to get some interesting dialogue about the horrors of foster care, the story interjects with Alexandra’s desire to detach from her famous, wealthy parents (Lenny Kravitz and Naomi Campbell) and achieve fame on her own. And before we can really learn about that relationship, Star gives her mom’s old manager a lap dance and in the process convinces him that she can handle performing at his godson’s party. Introducing and maintaining numerous plotlines can add so much depth, but STAR’s wide swath of events end up drowning each other out.
Lenny’s first mistake was not wearing the Big Ass Scarf
The characters suffer from the same problem as the plot; they’re unique enough to be potentially interesting, but vague dialogue and a lack of clear direction prevents them from being fleshed out in any meaningful way. Star is ostensibly the protagonist, and so far most of the plot has revolved around her. But other than her unquenchable desire for fame, we don’t really know anything about her. We have more detailed pictures of Simone and Alexandra, but we only get to experience their lives as they pertain to Star. What’s left are a handful of half-interesting characters that don’t generate enough sympathy for us to care when Star inevitably burns them on her journey to the top.
Even the recaps at the beginning of episodes can’t maintain a consistent tone. The two episodes after the pilot both recount the rapist-stabbing scene to the sounds of an uptempo pop song, amongst other unsavory events that the showrunners presumably want us to take seriously. So why juxtapose those events with music more suited for scenes of enthusiastic scheming?
I give STAR credit for its ambition. A musical drama about a subject as relevant and mysterious as fame needs time to build, to explore the fame that enraptures and occasionally destroys us. But the inconsistent and confusing direction of the plot constantly muddles and distracts from the message, and that’s just not a flaw a TV drama can easily overcome. Maybe STAR will find its focus and start to shine, but if it keeps shooting forward at this speed, I wouldn’t count on it.
Not one, not two, but THREE STAR PUNS. You’re welcome
STAR airs on Wednesdays on FOX