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‘Rising Star’ recap: ABC raises the wall on new singing competition

Season 1 | Episode 1 | “Series Premiere” | Aired June 22, 2014

Is Rising Star the new Hunger Games of reality singing competitions? If contestants can’t raise the wall with their raw talent, will producers drop them into a shark tank or set packs of wild dogs on them? Let’s watch and find out!

The show opens on Josh Groban standing in what appears to be space, using a fake touchscreen (how awkward that must have been to film — “Hey, Josh Groban! You’re in space! Swipe your finger across the camera lens like you MEAN it!”). He tells us they’re going to change the way we watch TV. I want to believe him, but I’m still at home in my sweatpants eating a waffle and holding a remote, so I don’t know about that.

Josh explains that the grand prize is a recording contract with Capitol Records. He introduces us to the judges (or, rather, “experts”), including hat-wearing Brad Paisley, glitter-loving Kesha and frenetic hip-hop artist Ludacris, aka “Luda.” Each of their votes will add 7 percent to the total voting percentage. Josh then formally introduces THE WALL, an imposing structure that covers the front half of the stage. His voice is almost drowned out by the music during this segment, and it seems to get louder and louder, as if THE WALL is saying “Do not cross me, Josh Groban!” THE WALL is calling the shots now, you guys.

The experts give advice and make awkward small talk, and Josh notes it looks like they’re “hanging in an airport lounge, waiting for snacks” (well, give them some snacks, Josh! Kesha looks peaked). They then show instructions on how to vote. You know those stressful fever dreams where you’re being chased by zombies, running through the city like a rat in a maze? That’s how I feel trying to dismantle the mechanics of this show.

Here’s what I DO know: Voting is done on a mobile device via the official Rising Star app, where you check in before each performance and swipe yes or no for a contestant. You might even see your picture on the wall (if you give permission!). If at least 70 percent of viewers (including the expert votes) say yes, the wall comes up. If less than 70 percent say yes, the wall stays down. Sounds simple, right? Not so fast. Further complicating things is the fact that ABC is broadcasting the show live in the Eastern/Central/Mountain time zones, then replaying it again in the Pacific time zone. If someone makes it to 70 percent in either time zone, they’re through to the next round of the competition … so that takes a bit of the fun out of it for West Coast viewers.

First up is Joshua Peavy, a youth pastor with a very attractive wife, two kids and a heart for troubled youth. There is a noisy pre-performance countdown that’s got to be intimidating, but Josh keeps his cool and surprises us all with a golden, CCM-ready voice on “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You.” His performance inspires all three experts to say yes, reaching an 87 percent vote and raising the wall. While it isn’t necessarily awe-inspiring, it’s still a solid performance, and the experts seem relieved their first audition isn’t terrible.

Next we meet Lisa Punch. The gorgeous, well-spoken singer, originally from Guyana, now lives in Brooklyn, where she shares a two-bedroom house with 13 family members. Her “How Will I Know” starts as a ballad in the vein of Sam Smith’s most recent arrangement before it kicks into the original up-tempo version of the song. Lisa’s delivery is shaky and a bit pitchy, but she has a pretty voice and gives a charismatic performance. That’s enough to snag a yes from the experts and reach 80 percent. While I don’t share the voters’ enthusiasm, I’m happy to see her make it to the next round, because I’m not a monster. That girl needs her own apartment ASAP!

We come back from the commercial break to find Josh in the greenroom, where he announces there’s one person in the audience who auditioned via Instagram and is unaware they’ll be performing tonight. He then approaches a girl in the audience who is clearly dressed to perform, and “surprises” her with the news that she’ll be taking the stage! We find out she’s a 16-year-old named Macy Kate, and Josh sends her backstage to rehearse “for the first time.” OK, Josh, sure thing. Fool me once.

After Kesha tells a heartwarming story about breaking and entering, we get to know Manneepat Molloy, a telegenic 16-year-old whose family moved from Bangkok to L.A. after one of her YouTube videos went viral. For some inexplicable reason, she chooses to sing the Italian popera piece “Con Te Partiro.” Her voice is perfectly lovely, but it doesn’t reach the spectacular heights you’d expect from this type of song. This doesn’t stop the voters (and experts Kesha and Brad) from giving her a resounding yes, and she breaches the wall with a triumphant high note and 73 percent of the vote.

The show’s first duo comes in the form of the adorkable Daniel and Olivia, a meet-cute that started with singing lessons. While their love is real, their onstage chemistry is off during “Counting Stars.” Neither has a particularly strong voice, and all three experts vote no. Luda takes it a step further, making faces and giving a full-body thumbs down. While he’s technically correct in his assessment (and America agrees, giving them only 6 percent), he still basically acts like a big jerk.

Up next is soft-spoken Jessie Kinch, a young guy with a relaxed seventies vibe and a glorious head of hair. Josh points out that his singing voice is like a “beast on a leash,” and he’s not exaggerating. Jessie’s “I Put a Spell on You” is the standout moment of the night — wild, compelling and completely unexpected. All three experts give an enthusiastic yes, and he gets the highest score so far (92 percent).

The fifth slot of the night goes to a boy band group who call themselves Beyond 5. There is a LOT of hair product happening, and a guy named Patch. If they could win on harmonies and dance moves alone, their “Wake Me Up” might have broken the wall, but instead it stays firmly in place with a 46 percent vote. The wall is a harsh mistress.

The perfect antidote to the boy band is the next contestant, the understated Sarah Darling, a country singer/songwriter from Nashville. Her “Merry Go Round” is delicate and natural, and unfolds really beautifully. It doesn’t set off any fireworks for the experts, but it does establish her as one of the best singers of the night, gently dismantling the wall with 89 percent of the vote (including a yes from all three experts).

After the commercial break, we learn that the Rising Star app has just hit the 1 million-download mark. To celebrate, they bring out Colin Huntley, a 16-year-old from Austin, Texas. While he’s emboldened by his experience of going to prom as a freshman (big man!), his “Sing” is still a bit of a mess. He has a pleasant falsetto but little vocal control, as reflected in the 38 percent vote. Brad recommends he come back after a couple more proms and give it another shot. I concur.

Next up is the quirky Summer Collins, an 18-year-old military kid from Fayetteville, North Carolina. While her backstory is heartbreaking, and her personality is cute, it’s not enough to overcome her erratic rendition of “Classic,” and the wall stays down with a 31 percent vote.

After much ado, we get to the last contestant of the night, 17-year-old YouTube star Macy Kate. We see a clip of her Instagram audition, which appears to be a fully produced music video. Despite all of the qualifying statements (It’s a surprise! She had no idea she was going on tonight!), Macy completely commands the stage, roaring through “Me and My Broken Heart” with a vengeance and giving the most assured performance of the night. Her voice is strong and radio-friendly, and she easily raises the wall with 93 percent of the vote.

The show ends, and Josh seems shocked that he’s still standing because they are flying by the seat of their pants, y’all. The experts don’t have the musical vocabulary of a Harry Connick Jr. or the warm, bro-country vibe of a Blake Shelton, but I’m going to give them some time. Josh Groban is obviously funny and quick-witted. Once he lets go, he may be good at this hosting thing. I’m willing to cut them all a little slack this week, but next week? The gloves are off.

What were your favorite moments from the premiere? Am I the only one who’s going to have nightmares about singing to that wall? Let me know your thoughts, and come back next week for more talk about Rising Star.

Rising Star airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on ABC.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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