Lemme keep it 100. I had no plans to watch or review Lee Daniels’ new FOX show Star. It just didn’t sound like my cup of tea. The commercials gave me Honey-ish vibes, and if you recall, that was a disaster. I also still haven’t recovered from Iggy Azalea. And there was the god awful quote Daniels gave on The Real about how putting the white girl at the lead of a show with a mostly black cast was “because the country… needed to heal”.
That explanation was ridiculous. Like, c’mon, mayne. Just say you wanted to increase the likelihood of a crossover show and you put the white chick there so white folk would have somebody they identify with. You wanted to have the Eminem/Beastie Boys phenomenon happen for you the same way Dre and Russell Simmons made it work for them. I ain’t mad at the hustle. Just don’t BS me on the hustle.
There was also the Empire problem. Lee Daniels is the co-creator of Empire. I watched the first season. It was... many things, everything, all the things possible, at once, and in every episode. It’s a TV phenomenon. There’s a market for it. Clearly. But in the Power vs Empire war that Fiddy tried to make happen like “fetch”, I went with Power.
So. That’s a lot of reasons not to watch. So how do we get here with this review?
Because of a stroke of marketing genius.
I think my dad saw a commercial about wireless headphones, because he asked me about them the other day and said he wanted them for Christmas. Long story. I wrote about it on Facebook.
Within two days of me writing that, two sets of wireless headphones arrived. One pair —JBL—was from the good folks at Fox, with a screener of the first episode of Star, and a personal letter from Lee Daniels.
But I gave the headphones to my dad, whose been listening to them non-stop. The sound is great and he’s absolutely fascinated by no wires. He’s been walking around his house all day with the headphones on, singing. Earlier it was Whitney Houston, then later it was someone’s version of “I Did It My Way”, probably Aretha. (I prefer Nina). Anyway, I was typing on the kitchen computer when he wandered in for some juice and I caught the etching of Star on the side of the headphones.
Not only has Lee Daniels saved me about $170, he has also brought immense joy to my dad. The way my guilt is set up, I figure I at least owe the show a watch.
I was expecting to suffer through it.
Surprisingly, I didn’t.
Dare I say: I liked it. And it made me like these crazy little girls and their music (which is very Destiny's Child) enough to tune in to see what happens to them, at least next week. And Miss Lawrence’s one-liners move me. When he told the transgender assistant, you’re “a delusional gentleman”, iCackled. There was also a nice dig at Fiddy, who has antagonized Empire forever. Once of the characters calls him “tired.” Hahahahahaha.
In case you missed it—or even if you didn’t and you want to see if someone else caught the same ish you did:
Star is the Dreamgirls, Sparkle, My Life As A Supreme-esque story of, well, “Star”, a 17 year old Eminem-like white girl raised in foster care. She’s poor and has ambitions to be a singer who is good enough to land the cover of Vanity Fair and she wears her hair like a bad version of Beyonce' during her Austin Powers era. After watching her shenanigans in the first episode— stripping, stabbing, stealing and fighting— I’m glad Daniels made her white. Lord knows we don’t need another no act-right black girl on TV.
Star also has an estranged half-black sister, Simone, who lives with a black family who doesn’t think she’s Black enough and where the dad, an unrecognizable Darius McCrary (aka “Eddie Winslow” from Family Matters) rapes her. She drinks and gets high, because, sh--, who wouldn’t if that was your life? She and Star are reunited after a five-year separation, by the seven-minute mark of the episode. She is desperate for a mom-figure. And again, wouldn’t you be too?
There’s also my fav character, Alexandra, a black chick who looks like a living Bratz doll, which I mean in the most complimentary way possible. She’s adorbs and her face is always beat and she calls cheap weave “goat hair”. And her dad is Lenny Kravitz and he has a gigantic picture of Diana Ross’s best portrait in his dressing room.
Pause: How is Lenny Kravitz so got damn fine after all these years? Ain’t he like 50?
Anyway, Alexandra is rich, her long hair is real, her mom is dead and she met Star on Instagram. She wants access to her trust fund so that she can use it to fuel the music career she’s building with Star. She’s the singer/songwriter of the group.
Here’s how this story, plays out:
Star gets herself out of foster care, goes to grab her sister, kills Eddie Winslow, then they swing North to pick up Bratz doll in NYC and then they head to ATL where Carlotta (Queen Latifah), their mother’s best friend who has been looking for them for 10 years, lives on the not-so-great part of town. Carlotta is really religious and sings (well) in the church and runs a hair salon. She offers the girls and Alexandra a room to sleep in the salon, where they will also earn their keep.
Oh, and Al B. Sure lives next door. Yes, I know his name is Quincy IRL, but he looks exactly like his dad who I grew up crushing on. New Al B. Sure is a BLM activist with a crush on Alexandra. Watching him makes me feel like a teenager again.
Anyway, they work in the salon. They break into music via the worst open mic ever somewhere in Decatur. Their music is good, their look is super cute, and Carlotta’s daughter who happens to be there takes notice of the girls. She suggests that the girls head to the strip club to meet a manager. Star accepts; the other girls bail. At the strip club, we get a guest appearance from Joseline!
Star dons a gold jumpsuit and ends up grinding on Jahil Rivera (Benjamin Bratt) a big wig, who she takes to the champagne room. She sings as she grinds and this is where I fall in love with the show. Star goes off in her head into the “Big Spender” Bob Fosse dance sequence from Sweet Charity (one of my favorite films), replete with the dance bar, and updated with a gaggle of women of all sizes whipping hair and shaking ass in gold latex as she sings some unnamed song that I would totally bump in my truck.
This scene also highlights the (Julia Stiles) problem I expected with the show. It’s a white chick, singing black music surrounded by black women and she’s the least interesting to look at despite being the star. Visually, her cute and bouncy blond curls just can’t compete in a room full of black girl magic and thick thighs. The eye travels elsewhere.
Rivera is as interested in Star as I am in that gold latex montage. He offers her a gig performing at some famous NFL player’s house, and if they do well, he will rep them.
Fast forward. Carlotta knows the manager. She shows up at his house the night after he meets Star. Carlotta says they had an agreement. What? And he knew Star’s mama. And Carlotta threatens to call the DA if he doesn’t leave the girls alone. What is happening here? He used to be the manager of Mary and Carlotta. Mary did drugs; Carlotta gained weight and they blew their chance at success. The manager says he’s not losing this time. Carlotta starts quoting her daddy who says she only needed three things in life—her Bible, her word and a gun, which she pulls out of her purse.
Oh. Queen is on her Mama Morton ish!
The following day, Star and the girls are getting dressed for their performance at the NFL player’s house. Simone straightens her hair, which I like better than her curly hair. Not because I like straight hair better, but because she doesn’t do anything with her curly hair. It needs shape or something. So does Star’s. But with straight hair, Simone looks Latina. So now we have a girl group with a white girl, a Black girl and a Latina-looking girl. It’s a marketing dream for the group and for this TV show. I swear, if this girl speaks a sentence of Spanish or her dad was a Black Latino, Daniels just got a whole new market. The way this girl group currently works is Star’s the Beyonce. Alexandra is Kelly and Simone is Michelle with more rhythm and curves.
Oh Geez. I’m getting invested in the mundane details now. I’m getting sucked in. I do not have time to recap another show. I’ll make a deal. If someone sends me the screeners for the additional episodes, I probably will recap it. As long as it stays good. Otherwise…. no guarantees. Deal?
Anyway, the girls show up at the NFL player’s house with the manager that Queen pulled a gun on and they are wearing Destiny Child-esque outfits, from the early years. It’s all sequins everything! And Simone gets wasted on scotch before the performance. She pulls it together long enough to nail it.
Oh, and that dude that Star stabbed? Eddie Winslow? He ain’t dead. Plot twist!
True to Daniels' more is more way of storytelling, there's a lot going on here. And all of it doesn't always make sense, but it is entertaining. And I like the music. And the girls are likable enough that I'm rooting for their success. I'm not committing to the show just yet, but I'll keep going on an episode by episode basis.
What did you think of Star?