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By Tom Murphy
Last week I had the great misfortune of suffering through the first two episodes of The One: Making a Music Star, which is well on its way to becoming reality television's Ishtar. A mutant hybrid of American Idol (natch) and Making the Band that pits eleven contenders against each other in pursuit of a major recording contract, the program is hosted by George Stroumboulopoulos, an overly earnest Canuck who's reportedly the cat's pajamas in the Great White North and bears a passing resemblance to Ford Fairlane-era Andrew Dice Clay. Dude could be Nick PappaGiorgiofor all I care; I seriously doubt I'll have any need to remember his name in the future.
To say this show is fucking abysmal is kind. The One makes Temptation Island seem worthy of an Emmy. Which means it deserved to be one of the lowest-rated premieres in the history of ABC.
On paper, though, I'm sure The One looked great to network executives. Based on Operación Triunfo -- a hit Spanish program produced by Endemol, the fine folks who brought us such cerebral fare as Fear Factor, Big Brother and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, among others -- it calls for the performers to live together in a mansion, where they attend an "academy" overseen by a trio of "music experts" and compete for a shot at stardom. Problem is, the panel of "experts" are anything but. This trio of geniuses comprises producer and Janice Dickinson look-alike Kara DioGuardi (um, who? Exactly); Mark Hudson, a barely has-been freakshow with an inexplicable predilection for berets, hair dye and eye shadow; and former Motown president/P.Diddy protégé Andre Harrell. Together, this threesome possesses about as much sensibility and credibility as those snake-oil salesmen from Trashville who put on the American Music Auditions a few years back. Their namby-pamby glad-handing of the performers is simply vomit-inducing. Harrell actually told one of the kids -- get this -- that his performance reminded him of Jackie Wilson. Dude, were you really on the payroll at Motown? That explains so much. I mean, the kid has a nice-enough voice, but Jackie freaking Wilson?
To add insult to injury, the house band ends up transforming each song into a third-rate karaoke backdrop. Instead of bolstering the material, these hired assassins shoot holes in the performances the size of Volkswagens. Seriously, these douchebags are remedial. I've seen tweakers stumble into Guitar Center with more musical aptitude.
As painful as it may be, I'll continue watching The One, for one reason: Aubrey Collins, the Littleton wunderkind-turned-hard-pop femme fatale. A casting agent for the show reached out after coming across Collins's profile on myspace. Although open casting calls were held across the country, including in Denver, the agent had to catch up with Collins at a show in Los Angeles. That's because late last year, the Collins family (sans Dad) pulled up stakes and moved to the City of Angels in hopes of pushing Aubrey's music career forward. But don't cry for her just yet, Mootown. As inspiring and Rudy-like as ABC made Collins's story seem on the first night of The One, with shots of her in front of the trailer that time forgot, I have it on good authority that the family has actually been hanging inside a 34-foot recreational vehicle inside a gated RV community complete with wi-fi and satellite hook-ups.
Still, those digs must pale in comparison to the mansion where Collins moved for the show -- and she could be in residence for a while. Although she offered an ill-advised rendition of "Born to Be Wild" for her first performance (it was a terrible choice that failed to showcase her pipes), I still like her chances. While her fellow contestants may have "potential" -- Austin Caroll, a portly weirdo from Memphis, turned in a serviceable version of the Band's "The Weight" that prompted the clueless Harrell to offer, "I don't know who Annie is, but you sure took the weight off of her" -- Collins already looks like a star. Jeff Healy can see that. In fact, from the time I first saw her more than three years ago -- showcasing at the Grizzly Rose for those highrollers from Nash-vegas -- to last fall, when a completely transformed Collins brought the rock and had dirty old geriatrics waggin' their tongues at South Park, her presence and raw talent have continually blown me away.
The One offered glimpses of the Collins everyone back here knows and loves in a montage that played between her performance and that of her newfound love interest, Nick Brownell, the over-emoting kid from Sandusky, Ohio, who could pass for Nathan Meese's doppelganger. (Note to Brownell, who foolishly took on "Let's Get It On": Marvin Gayeshould be held in the same regard as the Beatles. Don't go anywhere near any of his songs unless you can nail them -- which you can't, sport. Besides, we already have one John Mayer. Do we really need another?) Anyhow, if that Collins comes through in future episodes (and the show doesn't get the hook mid-season), the rest of the country will discover what we've known all along: Collins truly is The One.