Throwback Review: Instant Star

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Over the course of four seasons, Instant Star established itself as more than just a teen series on the N. It was also a guilty pleasure for people of all ages and spawned several soundtracks as well as DVDs. It has also allowed star Alexz Johnson to build a musical career.

The Canadian series followed teenager Jude Harrison as she finds her way in the recording industry upon winning an American Idol-style singing contest. The premiere opened with a voice over by Jude reflecting on her first guitar and how it has led her to this moment while slow motion footage of Jude competing in the finale and getting crowned the winner plays. With a quick cut to G Major studios the following day, the viewer is thrust into Jude’s new world as quickly as she is (and most TV contest winners).

It’s anything but smooth sailing for Jude as subsequent episodes find her dealing with all sorts of problems, including her rivalry with runner-up Eden. Throughout the first season, Jude has to prove herself worthy of her crown and counteract her rival’s public attacks. Her first test is convincing music and publishing mogul Darius to give her the cover of his magazine back after he decides she’s too young and inexperienced to get the spot. She also must deal with the backlash from fellow students who are tired of all the attention she’s getting, her parent’s arguments about her career, and the poor sales of her first album.

The show stars Alexz Johnson, a Canadian singer/songwriter/actress. Johnson got her start singing the National Anthem at Canadian sporting events, as well as landing a role in the Disney series So Weird. Johnson does all the vocals for her character and her performances are usually the highlight of each episode. She even wrote several songs the first season.

One of the high points of the first season was a story in which Jude and her sister have discovered that their father is having an affair. The sisters are asked to keep it silent, and the situation soon proves too much for Jude. She ends up writing a song to sort through everything. The result, “Skin”, could easily have been a hit single. The pain and anger in her voice is so genuine, you feel like she’s actually experiencing the situation herself. The lyrics are also top notch. “Falling apart and all that I’m asking is this a crime, am I over-reacting?” and “Oh, my permission to sin. You might have started my reckoning. I’ve got a reason now to bury him alive. Another little white lie.”

While some of the stories are a bit over-the-top, the actors manage to make it work. The cast had great chemistry and clearly enjoyed working together on the show. If you’re looking for an entertaining way to spend a half hour, check it out on DVD.

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