Similar to Empire, Star is very much rooted in Black music. However, there are no boardrooms, the stars of the show aren’t rich folk who are established. This show, primarily, seems about the struggle to achieve fame.
Trigger Warning(s): Transphobia & Rape Attempt
While barely near 18, Star (Jude Demorest) is ready to take on the responsibilities of an adult, get emancipated, and get her little sister Simone (Brittany O’Grady) out of the system. A system she and her have been in since their mother died almost a decade ago. But the dream doesn’t end simply with getting her sister back, Star wants to live up to her name. So with her making a friend, through Instagram, named Alexandra (Ryan Destiny) who can both sing and write, they head down to Atlanta. For while Star may talk a big game, with no family, or friends who have a place they can crash at, she seeks out her mother’s best friend, her god mother who wasn’t able to take care of them before but can now: Miss Carlotta Brown (Queen Latifah).
But with each girl having their own issue, much less Miss Carlotta having a slew of her own, including that of her children, be them biological or through a bond, it is going to be one wild and dramatic rise to fame or infamy.
To me, the songs in the pilot reminded me of season 1 of empire. When the songs were catchy, you wanted to download them, and not just wait for them to be over. Queen Latifah’s gospel song, she straight up blew out of the park and it got me emotional. Sort of like her rendition of “I Know Where I’ve Been” from Hairspray. As for the girls, I just want you to imagine if Tiana, from Empire, got a girl group and she was the focus of the show. Make the songs a bit more hip-hop focused, and a tad ratchet, and that is what you get. Which, strangely, works quite well. To the point, you may want to subscribe to their YouTube channel not just for previews and behind the scenes features, but to hear the studio version of these songs, if not the song without the rest of the episode.
A Good Balance Between Comical and Serious
To me, Empire is more of a comedy than a drama. Thanks to almost caricature-like characters like Cookie, the wannabe thugs like Hakeem, and the personalities of Jamal and Lucious, even when things are dark or serious, it all feels very temporary. With Star, however, you get this sense of “Laughing to keep from crying.” For damn near every character got issues. If it isn’t losing their momma when they were young, it is being raped, having your dreams dashed, and of course, some have lighter problems. But even with characters like Alexandra, whose main issue is stepping out of her dad’s shadow, you can appreciate her problems because it seems rooted in something real. Not just something someone wrote for the sake of entertainment.
Thus leading you to understand when they are reckless, and laugh about it, that is because they got a taste of freedom. Laughing is a savored temporary relief, a moment of forgetting what they have gone through in order to get that one moment of solace. The laughs are genuine, needed, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we, one day, see someone laugh as they cry. For there is something about the show and its performers which make laughing truly seem like a weight has been lifted off their soldiers and now each step is like walking on the moon.
It Is Diverse
Diversity has been a big thing on network TV for some time now. However, when it comes to Black folks, there hasn’t been much diversity in terms of various depictions of what Black culture is on one single program. Empire does this to a point, with having Becky, Porsha, Cookie, Anika, and of course the Lyon brothers, but things are taken a step further here. Now included are those of the gender identity spectrum. For with the inclusion of Amiyah Scott, who is trans I believe, and her character being trans addressed on the show, honestly it seems we are breaking new ground here. Especially since it seems her role isn’t going to be like Laverne Cox on Orange is the New Black where either you get sassy Black girl or else she is looking down, out and disheveled. You are getting the whole person, all at once. Someone who can throw shade just as much as deal with a world where sex work is the easiest method to get paid. Where you have to deal with the people you love sometimes misgendering you and as of episode one, I don’t think we are going to get just a one-time feature that life is hard for Scott’s character Cotton. She may have a real, fully fledged, from premiere to finale, storyline.
The Otis Situation
The sole issue I have with this show, or will have I should say, is the situation between Star and Otis (Darius McCrary). In a show which has more than enough issues and drama, the Otis situation seems like that extra cup of sugar which puts you in diabetic shock.
Overall: Mixed (Stick Around)
After almost 2 years of Empire, honestly, this show feels like they took what made Empire such a big hit when it first premiered, and they are trying to tell a new story based off that. One which could be a repeat success, for it surely has the actors and characters to do so. However, unlike Empire, there isn’t a Cookie, Hakeem, Jamal, or even Lucious, who jokes around and lightens the mood. Things are a bit more somber in tone and definitely do or die in terms of not just the physical, but a person’s mental well-being.