There are many ways of looking at the struggle, determination, drama and talent it takes to make it in the music business, and for that, Mariah’s World and Star offer two very different perspectives. However, as television, the December 4-debuting E! series centered on multiple Grammy winner Mariah Carey is a vapid mess, while the December 14-premiering Fox drama from Empire co-creator Lee Daniels is full of hard truths, solid tunes and star-making performances.
Following Carey as she goes on her first European tour in years and tries to plan an over-the-top wedding to her now-ex-fiance, what I’ve seen of the eight-parter is full of exactly the lounging, employees laughing at the boss’ jokes, backstage shenanigans, and wandering around mansions and big boats you’d expect – and not much more. The obviously staged antics of Mariah’s World seek to swim with Keeping Up With The Kardashians, but, as I say in my video review above, instead flounders in the shallow waters of celebrity airbrushing.
Star, on the other hand, shines with some of the best work Oscar nominee Daniels has done since the acumen of 2009’s Precious – and I say that as a dedicated Empire fan. Set to debut right after the Season 3 winter finale of Empire in two weeks before moving to its regular slot January 4, the series from Daniels and Tom Donaghy focuses the spotlight on getting your act together, literally and figuratively, with some hard truths about broken families, race, poverty, gender, Instagram friendships and the best Kim Kardashian success summary I’ve ever heard.
Having watched the pilot directed by Daniels, I can tell you too that there are stars in the making in the trio of young actors who make up the Atlanta-based girl group trying to make it to the top. From Star herself, played with scratching soulfulness by Jude Demorest, to her self-destructive half-sister Simone, portrayed by Brittany O’Grady, and Alexandra, their new rich-girl-with-a-secret friend in Low Winter Sun alum Ryan Destiny, there is a clear dynamic and coercive maturity among these women in what is very smart casting. There is also the never less than top-notch Benjamin Bratt, who brings a lot of world weariness and hustle to the show as a washed-up manager looking for one more break.
However, the real star of Star is Queen Latifah as Star and Simone’s godmother, the beauty salon-owning and church-attending Carlotta. No spoilers, but let’s just say the Oscar-nominated Queen packs some serious heat and that one of hip-hop’s first ladies owns this role – you’ll see what I mean.
Check out my video review above to see more of my take on Mariah’s World (so miss) and Star (don’t miss), and tell us what you think.
This review originally ran on December 2