From the people who bring you the popular Canadian drama "Degrassi, The Next Generation" (eh? - see, that's quality joke writing right there, saying "eh?" went mentioning anything Canadian) comes "Instant Star", a show that takes some of the dramas of "Degrassi" on the road with Jude Harrison (Alexz Johnson), a singer who suddenly finds herself on the road to stardom when she enters a recording contest for G-Major records - and ends up winning.
The second season starts with Jude and her band in the midst of the kind of gig that she'd imagine any girl her age might desire - total freedom on the road, eating whatever she likes and playing to packed crowds who seem to hang on her every word. While Jude feels like she's on top of the world, things come crashing down to Earth when she gets home.
She quickly finds out that her record label has been taken over and her new boss - Darius (Wes Williams) - starts off as a jerk who wants to control every aspect of her career. When she crosses him and tries to perform her own song instead of the song he wants, she quickly finds out the consequences and has to decide how to fix matters - or if she really wants to go against her own artistic values.
Not only that, but sales of her record aren't going well, she's on the rocks with Jamie (Kristopher Turner) and producer Tommy Q. (Tim Rozon) is too focused on business to devote much time to Jude's older sister, Sadie (Laura Vandervoort). Making matters worse, there's another Instant Star about to be crowned, and Jude quickly has to work at not becoming last year's news. Beyond it all, her parents are having trouble in their relationship.
The second season continues Jude's attempts to balance her personal and professional life, and the series manages to do an excellent job trying to balance the look inside the difficulties of being an artist today. Surprisingly, the romantic dramas are handled just right - they could easily have been too melodramatic, but these scenes manage to usually not be cheesy. Jude's romantic life could be a little less tangled, but the series generally navigates it well. I also appreciated the show's decision not to always let the music always do the talking/heavy lifting for what's going on in the scene, like most TV teen dramas.
The performances are also what elevate this series, although none more than Johnson, who's absolutely terrific in the lead role. The actress, who actually does sing in the series, truly carries the show. Managing to offer a performance that accurately gets the sort of poppy-punk/spunky personality, Johnson also creates a character we genuinely like and want to see succeed. Vandervoort is also enjoyable as Sadie, and she and Johnson genuinely seem like sisters. Turner and Rozon also provide good supporting efforts, as well.
I can't say I expected too much from this series, but I found it to be an engaging comedy/drama that boasts great performances and manages to be both a good portrayal of a girl trying to make her dreams come true and deal with a personal life. It's certainly a lot better than most of what one finds on the WB these days.
15. 2- 1 18 Jul 06 No Sleep 'Til Brooklyn (1)
16. 2- 2 25 Jul 06 No Sleep 'Til Brooklyn (2)
17. 2- 3 1 Aug 06 I Fought the Law
18. 2- 4 8 Aug 06 Miss World
19. 2- 5 15 Aug 06 The Jean Genie
20. 2- 6 22 Aug 06 Stranger in the House
21. 2- 7 29 Aug 06 Personality Crisis
22. 2- 8 27 May 07 Hallelujah
23. 2- 9 3 Jun 07 Problem Child
24. 2-10 5 Jun 07 Mother's Little Helper
25. 2-11 12 Jun 07 When I Come Around
26. 2-12 19 Jun 07 Date With The Night
27. 2-13 17 Jun 07 Viciousness
VIDEO: "Instant Star" is presented by Alliance Atlantis in 1.33:1 full-frame. Picture quality isn't outstanding, but things generally look fine here, with sharpness and detail that remain just somewhat above average throughout much of the time. Some scenes did appear mildly noisy, but most of the presentation looked crisp and clean, with no smearing or other faults. Colors looked rich and bold, with pleasing saturation and no smearing.
SOUND: A crisp, clear stereo soundtrack that delivered the music in bold fashion. Dialogue also remained crisp and clean, as well.
EXTRAS: A blooper reel that runs several minutes offers a few good laughs. A handful of deleted scenes offer no explanation as to why they were dumped, but they do offer a few good character moments. We also get the original audition tapes for Nicholas Rose, Zoie Palmer and Vincent Walsh. There's also the musical performances available on their own, photo album, contest winner music videos and trailers.
Final Thoughts: "Instant Star" really caught my attention, as I went in with low expectations, but found myself enjoying the series, as Johnson offers a charming, energetic performance that carries the show with ease. The DVD presentation boasts satisfactory audio/video quality, as well as a few extras. Recommended.