The "Star" has risen -- ABC's "Rising Star," the network's big, brassy, gimmicky answer to "The Voice" and "Idol" -- and predicated on the simple notion that those cellphones in your pocket don't do enough already.
How was it? (Results here.)
The vox populis have yet to speak -- ABC's overnights which are promised shortly. But ABC does in fact expect bigness here: The idea of swiping one's finger across one's phone and thus choosing one artist over another is deemed just too unique and too groundbreaking to ignore.
But my brief sampling of the contestants and the format indicate there are problems that may or may not be factored into the eventual Nielsen ratings outcome but which in time could be when audiences realize there really is nothing all that unique here, other than the technology.
First, the judges. Brad Paisley, Kesha and Ludacris are hardly passive bystanders but cheerleaders or anti-cheerleaders, prompting the masses to either a thumbs-up or thumbs-down. Their reactions were clearly reflected in the real-time results -- and Ludacris especially became an active executioner. Judges are called judges for a reason, and while these guys may be known simply as "the expert panel," they are fooling no one -- they are judges. Therefore to large degree, this was about their choices versus those of the audience.
Second, song choice. All the performers were good. That wasn't the issue; each was already well-established. Therefore this became a proxy on the songs themselves, with big rousing pop ballads -- whatever the Bryan Adams song that Joshua Peavey sang is -- winning over the pop/indie folk ballad from the folksy male balladeer (Ed Sheeran or Avicii) every time. Macy Kate came up with the highest score of the night (93 percent) from a song that has energized a million karaoke contests, Rixton's "Me and My Broken Heart."
Third, the swipe. I'm really not all that certain what this gimmick brought other than to confirm conventional wisdom (see above) that middlebrow pop ballads, which have been the fifth column of "American Idol" forever, are popular and that audiences will be influenced by a major star like Paisley if he says he likes something or does not. While this could get interesting in time, so far the swipe is just another app cluttering your phone's screen.
Fourth, are viewers just weary of this kind of singing competition? Forget for a sec that point about song proxy; "Star" could be and likely will be a proxy on the TV singing competition... The major shows have faded as you are aware and along comes another show that directly reflects both, in style, direction and even format. Still no ratings in, but...
Yet with all this said, at least it was a good night for Long Island -- Jesse Kinch, of Seaford, had much success with the Jay Hawkins chestnut, "I Put a Spell on You."