TV Review: ‘Rising Star’

Rising Star

Generic, inept and occasionally offensive, ABC’s “Rising Star” is the definition of trainwreck television. A live singing competition show launched at the exact moment the genre is experiencing a perilous downslide, the only innovation here is a silly real-time voting conceit. Even by the lowered standards of summer programming, it’s hard to imagine this “Star” going anywhere but down in the ratings every week.

Things couldn’t have started any worse for the two-hour live premiere as every word affably amateurish host Josh Groban uttered in the first five minutes had to compete with inexplicably blaring background music.

Groban introduced the show’s random trio of “experts” (i.e. judges) — country star Brad Paisley, hip-hop mogul Ludacris and dance pop princess Ke$ha — and immediately insulted the tacky set design with a botched joke, “[It’s] like an airport lounge, you guys are waiting for snacks.”

After Paisley let loose with a self-aggrandizing anecdote about flying on Air Force One with the President, Groban asked Ke$ha if she had ever “hung out” with Barack Obama. Paisley interrupted to crack, “I think Bill Clinton’s her type.” (Hillary’s team must have loved that little ad lib.) Groban fumbled for a transition. That’s live TV, folks.

Things only got worse when the performers took the stage. Looking and sounding like a motley mix of rejects from “The Voice,” “American Idol,” the now-canceled “X Factor” and “America’s Got Talent” (which NBC aired opposite the “Rising Star” premiere in an attempt to blunt the impact; based on the soft launch results, they needn’t have bothered), there wasn’t a single obvious star-in-the-making among them.

Not that the hopefuls were done any favors by the 90-second time limit and the hyperactive production’s attempt to draw a viewer’s attention to anything but the actual singing.

Based on a popular Israeli format, votes are instantly tabulated via an app, so anyone watching at home can “check-in” and cast a “yes” or a “no” for any performer during the minute and a half that person is on stage. As long as the yays top 70% by the end, the contestant is safe. (The judges are granted 7% of the vote each, not enough to make or break anyone.)

That means in addition to “watching” the performance, the audience is simultaneously invited to watch their app, or watch how the judges vote, or watch the real-time vote meter rise next to the performer, or watch “The Wall” — a giant video screen blocking the contestant from the audience until their vote passes 70% and it rises.

The ADD approach reps pandering to the social media generation, and never gels with the otherwise thoroughly square production values and cast of competitors. With younger viewers already bailing on the genre, an interactive app isn’t likely to lure them back.

Neither will the embarrassingly phony attempt at plucking an “unsuspecting” member of the audience to join in the auditions. The young woman selected had applied via Instagram with a Rebecca Black-style elaborately produced amateur music video, but the producers still tried to make her appearance look spontaneous. Poor Groban actually had to deliver the line, “You’ve gone from a spectator to a contestant in the blink of an eye.”

Forced attempts at “Voice”-like banter between the judges unsurprisingly fell flat amid the chaos, and none of the three demonstrated a flair for punchy sound-bite criticism. (At least Ke$ha wisely addressed the elephant in the room about her suitability as a judge with the self-deprecating admission, “I’ve been on the stage before and been laughed off.”)

There’s always a degree of exploitation in the way contestants trot out personal tragedies to lobby for votes on these shows, but “Rising Star” proves notably egregious in that department. Sob stories involving death or poverty factored into a disturbingly high volume of the pre-performance introductory packages.

As a host, Groban is roughly 101 on a list of the show’s top 100 problems (the grating theme song and haphazard camera work need to be remedied stat). Still, the successful singer — who would’ve made a perfectly sane choice for one of the judges’ chairs — looked decidedly flustered at several points during the premiere, as if he only just realized he’s been tasked with steering the Titanic straight towards the iceberg.

TV Review: 'Rising Star'

(Series; ABC, Sun. June 22, 9 p.m.)


Taped in Los Angeles by Keshet DCP and DC Media.


Executive producers, Ken Warwick, Nicolle Yaron, Allen Shapiro, Mike Mahan, Avi Nir, Ran Telem, Yoav Tsafir, Tmira Yardeni, Alon Shtruzman; co-executive producers, Mark Bracco, Assaf Blecher; senior supervising producer, Norm Betts; supervising producers, Jess Devlin, Louise van Patten; director, Gregg Gelfand; music director, Ray Chew; production designer, Florian Wieder. 120 MIN


Host: Josh Groban. Experts: Brad Paisley, Ludacris, Ke$ha.

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  1. Jason Beers says:

    Like the show a lot however once a battle is over, it is not fair to the second contestant of the battle to bring out the first AAT the same time and comment together…!!! The second contestant deserves good commenting, critiquing, etc..without the presence of the first…!!!

  2. Joe says:

    Having Kesha as a judge in a singing competition is like having Tommy Wiseau as an acting coach.

  3. Della says:

    I think this is the worst talent show ever. Aren’t the judges supposed to judge on their singing talent not their sad life stories? I understand that some of the contestants went thru tough times in life but this is a talent show not charity show. I am very disappointed when I first watched the show. I’m not a singer but I think I can judge better than Ludacris, Brad and specially Kesha (which I think she don’t know what she’s judging for). They need to re-cast this show if they want to stay next season. Good Luck…

  4. Greta says:

    I have a new 50″ Sony HDTV, and I cannot see the gauge thing that shows the percentage, regardless of how I set my screen. I saw it fine on the first show, but the picture format has changed somehow. So I really don’t even enjoy watching………yet I do. Unlike some, I love these talent shows, love seeing people get a chance to fulfill their dreams. The judges seem to be relaxing, so I have hope for this show. But then I still enjoy American Idol and love The Voice.

  5. gail says:

    last nights first 2 battles were completely dominated by the judges. both of the losers dominated the americas votes, and lost big. the judges votes should not count for 7 % at this point. if you only get 1 judge vote it doesnt matter what the rest of america thinks. im sure your jobs depend on ratings, i know that if my vote is meaningless, i will not vote or watch anymore

  6. Steve says:

    As an actor and musician I find it insulting that this obviously taped and lip-synched program is offered as “live performance”. The musicians holding guitars are obviously not touching the strings. Do everyone a favor, turn the channel, and pretend that this show never existed.

  7. Kimberly says:

    Seriously ?!? I thought ( we all know how that works !) I thought , people would be singing behind a wall , were no one could judge them , except for there talent , straight up . The Voice , almost tried , but they, just like this show had to bring in all the poo poo whining back story . ( One contestant had met one of the judges before ! ) I don’t care what it took for them to get there , they should be glad to be there and ready to do there thing . All of these shows should only be about the talent . If this was the case maybe just maybe everybody would stand a chance to show what they can do , not be judge by what people see . You know first impressions and all that ? Then we would know that they were picked from there talent . What if they just took the first 50 sign ins , told them where to be to perform with there own music either it be a cover or original , then invited the whole world to watch and vote, choosing the next promising talent ! They could have one or two judges that don’t vote at all and just say what they thought . It is the talented persons job to get out there , if they are not choosing that time then keep trying . Don’t perform just to hear someone they may never see again tell them there great or that they terrible or need work or whatever other advice they give . It only requires a simple YES or NO . Except it or keep on till you get the answer you want . Tell your back story when you make it on to VH1″ Where are they now ” ! I’m just saying

  8. Hubert Samm says:

    I’m sorry, but when someone like Josh does a show like this, it just cheapens him. It’s kind of like he’s desperate for publicity.. plus there are just way too many copycat shows like this on TV.. we’ll probably not watch any more episodes.

  9. Tonette Crawford says:

    No longer like this show was unable to vote for someone I liked..due to the system not allowing me to check in when I was ready to.. time for me to uninstall..

  10. I almost made it onto the show. I was on the last callbacks stages and they said that I “was so close” to being picked. What do you all think of my audition? This is my callback video:

  11. Shay says:

    This show left me feeling ‘awkward’ . It was so very weak in every single area. I’m sorry cause I was hoping it would be good but it’s just not.

  12. Linda Simpson says:

    I know you are a so called “critic or official reviewer” but give me a break. Did he really say that or did you make that up.. This is exactly why I don’t even look at your “rag of a magazine”. Personal attacks are totally wrong!!!!!!

  13. sandy says:

    The show was weak Ludacris is askin his self wtf did i sign up for lol

  14. Tomer says:

    because all of judges vote together worth 21% that leaves 79% for the crowd.
    In order for the crowd alone to raise the wall that will take 88.6% of the vote to be YES votes.
    I think that by those odds that means that the judges are pretty much a really huge factor as for if the singer passes or not.
    I saw the original show in Israel and it sucked.

  15. Ferdinand says:

    I shudder to think which of the few remaining gimmicks and cliches they trot out in coming weeks to ‘fix’ this mess.

  16. Linda Simpson says:

    Why is it when so called “critics” or “reviews” feel that they have to attack someone personally. If you didn’t like the show then so be it, but to say such things as Micah Kayslinowski says in his comment is just wrong. It was the first show and the first time Josh Groban hosted a show. Why do you feel it necessary to insult his appearance ( which by the way he is pretty damn good looking) And to say what you said about the individual judges was just mean and ignorant. Look at yourself first before judging others, and then keep your filthly mouth shut.

    • mal43 says:

      Sorry but Josh was not good as a host –maybe he should have been a judge – but was very awkward as a host That doesn’t attack him as a performer or musician. They just miscast him in the show.

  17. D Black says:


    • Michael Anthony says:

      True, but u gotta give them credit for trying. Its a hit elsewhere, so there was a chance.
      Somebody will knock “the voice” off it’d lofty perch soon. After all, which one if their winners is a chart hit? Not a single one.

  18. Micah Kayslinowski says:

    Great critique; like I wrote it myself. However, I didn’t think the format was that bad; the problem is the host and the judges. An arrogant Paisley lounging in his chair (like he’s important), Keisha (fresh out of rehab with droopier eyes than Britney Spears but even more effed up), ghetto rat Ludacris, and most annoying of all Josh Grownin’ (who looks like he hasn’t showered in weeks .. greasy unkept hair, a cheap suit, and nerd bifocal glasses sitting on his nose). Bad … REALLY bad …. Too bad (because it’s LIVE .. well sort of) it can’t be dumped to “online only” like I Wanna Marry Harry.

  19. ruzoc says:

    2 hours and only 7 singers. This show moves way too slow. I want to judge on the voice not based on who has a sad story to go with a voice. “Rejects from other singing competition shows” is correct. None of the contestants got a yes vote from me.

  20. Tony Sellars says:

    Thanks for not pulling any punches. This might be the worst show ever. I think Ludacris’ Karaoke comparison about the duo was on target for all the performers. If I want to see singing this bad, I’ll go to my local Karaoke bar. Putrid.

  21. LAprGuy says:

    Did I correctly catch that the 16-year-old’s family went from living comfortably in Bangkok to stillliving comfortably living in America but, what the heck, we will still do everything to support our teenage daughter in living her dream anyway?

  22. Laurie says:

    Will not be watching next week. Sarah Darling is already a country artist I’ve seen her before plus she has mutual friends with Brad.

  23. Jack says:

    As a statistician, the chart they use on this show really bothers me. The percentage should be fluctuating rapidly between 0 and 100% as people vote, not rising from 0% to 1% to 2% etc.

    • Eric says:

      This too bothered me until I realized that the chart they show is correct. The chart is showing the % of people who have voted “yes” of the number of people who “checked-in,” given this the chart should increase from 0% to the final value as it does in the show. Also, if there wasn’t a check-in step, there would be no way to show a judges vote as 7% in real time.

      • Tomer says:

        I wrote it already, but since you two are talking numbers as well I would like to read your opinion.

        “because all of judges vote together worth 21% that leaves 79% for the crowd.
        In order for the crowd alone to raise the wall that will take 88.6% of the vote to be YES votes.
        I think that by those odds that means that the judges are pretty much a really huge factor as for if the singer passes or not.”

        I thought about it while watching the Original show in Israel.
        There the percentage was even worst since there were 4 judges with 7% each.

  24. pj says:

    Simply painful to watch, had to turn it when JG told the 16 yr old she had made it when obviously she had!!! Really I tried, just horrible!!!

  25. devon Ashcraft says:

    Not to mention that Sara Darhling is already a signed country artist.

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