Latest TV drama from Lee Daniels has too much going on to be believable
For the most part, Lee Daniels traffics in tawdry messes. With “Star,” his latest TV project for Fox, he is at his tawdriest and messiest.
Understand, the formula has worked well for the creator-director-writer. He has struck gold on TV with “Empire” and in theaters with “Precious,” although he has also had low points (his first feature, “Shadowboxer,” was downright appalling). “Star” looks to be one of those low points.
This is ostensibly a show about a female pop trio with the focus on a central character indeed named Star (Jude Demorest), which sounds tame enough. But in the show’s one-hour pilot, Daniels piles calamity upon calamity with such unbridled gusto that you don’t wonder where the show will go from here, you wonder where it won’t go.
Child rape, attempted murder, social service abuse, drug and alcohol addiction, trans issues, gun threats, race issues, abandonment, religious refuge, black lives matter, car theft, blind ambition ... is it any wonder that by the time these girls get to singing (without microphones or instrumentation, by the way) it’s almost like comic relief? Daniels just doesn’t know when to let up.
The story, preposterous as it is: Soon-to-be 18-year-old Star and her younger sister, Simone (Brittany O’Grady), have been in separate foster families since their mother overdosed when they were small. Star manages to talk a social worker into letting her out of the system, plus handing over her file, which leads her to the long lost Simone. Star liberates her sister, they hook up with ambitious songwriter Rachael (Rayven Symone Ferrell) who they don’t realize is the daughter of a rock star, and head off to find fame in Atlanta.
Why Atlanta? Because Star discovers a close friend of her late mother’s, Carlotta (Queen Latifah), lives there and has been trying to find the sisters for years. Instant accommodations! Star then hooks up with a sleazy talent manager (Benjamin Bratt) and next thing you know the girls are singing at a pro football players lavish party.
Absurd? You bet. Entertaining? Not really, because Daniels lays it on so thick. Fox is waiting until the New Year for followup episodes. Maybe they figured the audience would need time to breathe. Or find the remote.
Tom Long is a longtime culture critic.
9 p.m. Wednesday