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The Road to Stardom With Missy Elliott

A hot musical catchphrase of the past year, "mash-up" -- the combining of two, seemingly disparate albums or singles to create a new work -- has found its first TV example in Missy Elliott's talent competition "The Road to Stardom." The rapper has created a mash-up of "American Idol" and "America's Next Top Model," assembling 13 wannabe singers and rappers, taking them on the road and giving them musical tasks that a trio of experts judge.

With:
Judges: Missy Elliott, Mona Scott, Dallas Austin, Teena Marie.

A hot musical catchphrase of the past year, “mash-up” — the combining of two, seemingly disparate albums or singles to create a new work — has found its first TV example in Missy Elliott’s talent competition “The Road to Stardom.” The rapper has created a mash-up of “American Idol” and “America’s Next Top Model,” assembling 13 wannabe singers and rappers, taking them on the road and giving them musical tasks that a trio of experts judge.

Considering that both formats feel a bit worn, success of “Road” may well be determined more by contestants’ personalities and their conflicts than by any particular talent they demonstrate. This gang of 13 is a rough bunch, and not one of them particularly shines in the opening seg. To the creators’ credit, though, the interest here is in developing multifaceted performers and not just big-voiced karaoke champs capable of mimicking contempo radio hits. (As on “Idol,” expect an abundance of melisma singing).

Novel hook is that the group is traveling on a ragtag bus trailing Elliott’s tour. They’ll be asked to perform in different situations in various cities, hoping to win a recording contract and cash. Elliott’s manager, Mona Scott, heads the jury, with producer Dallas Austin and R&B singer Teena Marie; they are all honest and low-key. In the first competish, they smartly focus on the performers’ believability and, not surprisingly, the least credible is the first to go.

A disaffected Elliott takes the judges’ recommendations and then makes the cut. She’s a taskmaster who doesn’t suffer fools, which also means she doesn’t possess the warmth of “Top Model” host Tyra Banks. Elliott is here to find a winner, not offer emotional support. Wisely, voiceover is kept to a minimum.

With a steady hip-hop beat and some extraordinarily well-lit scenes, “Road to Stardom” has a sharp look. It will be interesting to see if that continues as the contestants start getting into the usual reality-show hijinks.

The Road to Stardom With Missy Elliott

Series; UPN, Wed. Jan. 5, 8 p.m.

Production: Filmed in Los Angeles by Shapiro/Grodner and Monami. Executive producers, Allison Grodner, Arnold Shapiro, Jay Blumenfield, Tony Marsh, Mona Scott; co-executive producer, Missy Elliott, Rick Ringbakk; supervising producers, Brianna Bruderlin, Jym Buss, Susan Hoenig; producers, Jeff Anderson Munkres, Trevor Baierl, Erin Comerford, Pam Griffiths, Brielle Lebsack-Cohen, Erin Paullus, Jessica Horowitz.

Crew: Camera, Peter Ney; editor, Jason Stewart; lighting, Joshua Stern, Dave Stewart; casting, Michelle Mock. 60 MIN.

Cast: Judges: Missy Elliott, Mona Scott, Dallas Austin, Teena Marie.

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