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Rising Star premiere displays potential but needs work to survive

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Rising Star

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Tonight (Jun 23) was the debut of the heavily publicized and advertised Rising Star on ABC TV. The first hour of the new series was off to a very shaky start. The anticipation was fierce as the show opened with clunky and lackluster moments on a huge overdone hi-tech set. It is a new spin on a very tired singing competition concept. Engaging the outside world with the ability to vote via iphone and Android apps in real time is a great idea. The show needs to fix a few things quickly, if it would like to come back for another season.

For starters, the show was very smart to cast Kesha, the current darling of the music industry. Miss Kesha looked smashing, like a million bucks for the season opener, dressed in a very pretty white cocktail dress, pink washed hair and killer heels that she worked all night. Kesha has never looked better. In fact, her personality really helped sell the show too. The horrible first hour of this premiere was only saved by Kesha's presence and banter, which proves the lady is a bona fide star, in her own right.

Ludacris and Brad Paisley need to get a little polished and into their banter as experts. All three together should do well as the season goes on and they receive notes and feedback. Producers may want to move them closer to each other for more interaction.

The casting of Josh Groban as the host is a head-scratcher. While he may be looking to make a career transition, it is quite a risky move for ABC to put Josh in this very big spot. There were some serious awkward moments and novice mistakes made, especially during the first hour. ABC execs must have sent notes to Groban to step it up quick. The second hour did seem to get a bit more fluid and lively from him. Groban does need a prime-time host makeover desperately. Call the Hollywood glam squad now! New sexier glasses, tighter clothes, whiter teeth and a new hipper haircut should be a priority for the singer-turned-emcee.

The show itself is simple and as hard as it is to screw it up, they did. The first hour was so dismal and depressing after all that anticipation and hype. The singers were not great and the songs were lousy choices. The music from the house band needs to adjust levels and step things way up. Raise the game with the music and more talented singers and the show will do much better. Also, that annoying "3, 2, 1" before each singer starts is something that can go away. The opening hour seriously fell like a lead pipe.

The second hour was saved by Jesse Kinch, a 20-year-old from Seaford NY who brought down the house with his rendition of I Put a Spell on You by Screamin' Jay Hawkins. Kinch's voice is fabulous and has star quality all over it for its distinct sound and power. The show also lit up when Macy Kate performed Me and My Broken Heart by Rixton. Macy was informed during the first hour that she would be performing that night, without a proper stage rehearsal. This was another big awkward moment Groban had when Macy Kate's mother was not happy with his impromptu banter with her in the audience. Macy Kate did impress all three expert judges. They all stood, the wall was raised and she received the highest score of the night.

While this series has the best of intentions and huge bucks behind it to make it work, it lacks a real energy and enthusiasm. What are audiences or the cast to really believe in here? The truth is, and everyone knows it, that rarely do these singing competitions do anything for the winners anymore. ABC needs to raise the stakes for this competition, guarantee that the winner and runner-up will be treated like stars and invested into, for years to come with major record deals from Capital Records, marketing dollars, promotional appearances, music videos, concert gigs and even guest star spots on ABC properties. If ABC just puts out another dud winner that is never heard of again after the show is over, then why watch? Why have a second season? Who cares that these singers endure a lighter version of The Hunger Games if they don't really win anything substantial? ABC, Kesha, Ludacris, Brad Paisley, Josh Groban, and executive producer Nicolle Yaron -- please care enough to make watching this week after week rewarding for everyone and help the winner when the show is over. Help the winner if things don't work out with their label. Take them on tour with you. Experts: go out and perform with them. Record a duet together. Don't just use them up and spit them out. If Rising Star actually shows heart and gives back, then it has a chance of succeeding with the American public, where the others have all failed.

At this piont, when all is said and done, this is Kesha's time and her show to rock. It will be great to see what she wears each week and how she will continue to up her fashion game and stylist expense account. Let's hope there will be some good music and singers mixed in there too.

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