ABC Making the ‘Rising Star’ Work?

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ABC is set to air Rising Star this summer and is trying its hardest to make sure it will work for the network to compete with other reality music competitions. The host, Josh Groban,  joins musical stars like Ludacris, Brad Paisley and Kesha as judges. ABC is pushing the show through this summer with a new format that is going to try to outsmart the other relatively popular shows on FOX and NBC.

ABC TV and Dick Clark Productions have partnered up to air Rising Star on the network on June 22. Executive producers include Ken Warwick, who worked with American Idol and Nicolle Yaron from The Voice. Using technology and the element of thrill, ABC has decided to use an app that monitors real-time voting. This will happen live and competitors and viewers will be able to see the results as they come in. Rising Star‘s panel of judges will be appearing for a preview at the Billboard Music Awards,  that airs this Sunday at 8 p.m. on ABC. Ludacris is hosting the show and if reports are to be trusted, Michael Jackson will make a special “appearance” to raise up the ratings.

With all that said, the real question is, does ABC have a winner on their hands? Do they have all the basics for another reality show based on music? Contestants, check. Latest trend, check. Celebrity host, check. Music stars as judges, check. Audience, check. Trick up the sleeve, check. There is no reason why the viewers should not analyze what ABC does to make sure Rising Star is an actual hit.

With an idea taken from a show called HaKokhav HaBa in Israel, where it garnered 44 percent of the time slot shares in its 2013 run, ABC and U.K.’s iTV are banking on replicating the same success internationally. This tactic is really cool, simply because ABC will manage to monitor its real-time viewers and that is absolutely necessary for the success of the show. Smart phones are going to directly beam the votes onto a wall that will decide the fate of the contestants. The judges will have a say in the final vote, but as always, viewers get to choose their favorites.

Josh Groban is one of the industry’s secrets. The American singer, songwriter, musician, actor and record producer, whose four albums went platinum, is a vocal powerhouse. After filling in for Andrea Bocelli to perform The Prayer with Celine Dion in a last-minute change, Groban shot to fame. Groban is no stranger to the small screen, having performed minor roles in TV shows like Ally McBealGlee and The Crazy Ones. Groban also brings his hosting experience on the show as he has hosted  Live with Regis and Kelly several times between 2006 and 2012. Groban also marks the debut of a judge/host, who has a dual role to play and will probably have it the toughest. It should be interesting seeing him balancing the roles, as hosts are often known to share a special relationship with the contestants and this sometimes can wreak havoc on the other judges.

Ludacris, on the other hand will be the only other rapper after Nicki Minaj and to sit on the panel, representing the world of rap and hip-hop. The ludicrously popular Ludacris is known for some smashing relevant hits and collaborations. For his flow and mass appeal, the actor/rapper also has had previous TV and Hollywood experience. It will be interesting to watch him judge, because hopefully there will not be another debacle like the rivalry between Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj on American Idol. It is probably best that ABC refrain from stunts like that, because it needs all the good publicity it can get from its debut.

Kesha, thankfully is not Ke$ha anymore. The pop star, who is the successor to Lady Gaga in terms of avante-garde looks combined with modern pop, is surprisingly someone with a high IQ score of 140. With hits like Timber, Die Young and Crazy Kids, she is someone who is of the same age group as most of the contestants will be and will therefore be able to relate to the singers. After going through a recent stint of rehab, Kesha could be the perfect person who can help the contestants deal with the trysts of fame. Look out for someone from this generation to be on these seats, because it just may be the best thing to add to this mix of judges. Kesha will join Jessie J in being a star that is relevant to music lovers who identify with them.

Brad Paisley is a country superstar who has it all in the name. Blake Shelton opened the doors for country music to lay it all out to the people and gather a larger fan base for the much-loved American genre of music. Platinum records, sold out tours, 22 successful singles, and a Grand Ole Opry membership all seem to seal the deal for Paisley. This will mark the debut of another popular artist from the country music genre to represent the diverse musical tastes America displays on the show.

The trick up the sleeve, the smart move to use an app to monitor the votes and decide the winner, is set to be displayed on an electric wall that, according to ABC, will be a visual and technological wonder. Reversing the strategy of The Voice, where the judges are unaware of the singer, the Rising Star claims votes from the app which will be displayed on the wall. The wall rises with votes coming live, allowing the singer to catch a glimpse of the audience. That is taking the reverse psychology to the next level. The audience needs to know the singer just as much as the judges, because the best lose out on the count of being wildly unpopular. Hopefully, a mix of all these factors will make ABC’s Rising Star work for a network that needs a hit show right now.


American Idol has stars like Kelly Clarkson, Clay Aiken, Carrie Underwood and most recently Adam Lambert. The Voice is yet to produce someone notable and worth remembering. Expect stellar performances from the judges and contestants and the plethora of celebrities that will perform as guests. Can ABC make it work with the trend, judges and contestants on the Rising Star? Only time will tell.

Opinion By Rathan Paul Harshavardan

ET Canada

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