Fox's 'Star' plays like pallid 'Empire' knockoff

Ryan Destiny, Jude Demorest and Brittany O'Grady in the premiere of "Star."

(CNN)To the victor goes the spoils, so after the success of "Empire," it's hardly a shock that Fox would explore whether producer-director Lee Daniels has another TV hit in him. Yet the result, "Star," is a pallid gender-switch imitation of that earlier hit, with acting and writing less reminiscent of its ostensible inspiration than the movie "Showgirls."

On the plus side, the show offers truth in advertising if the question is, "How many stars would you give this show on a scale from 1 to 10?"
Mixing music, violence and coy sexuality in equal measure, "Star" focuses on the formation of a girl group, deriving its name from one of the characters, Star (Jude Demorest). Driven to succeed, she hooks up with Alexandra (Ryan Destiny), the wealthy daughter of a rock star played by Lenny Kravitz, who is hiding her privileged lineage; and seeks out Simone (Brittany O'Grady), Star's talented sister.
Set in Atlanta, the two girls have been raised in foster care, and now find themselves reunited with their godmother, Carlotta, played by an under-utilized Queen Latifah. In the premiere, the enterprising Star also lands them a manager (Benjamin Bratt) by performing for him at a, er, gentlemen's club, prompting the protective Carlotta to understandably ask, "Who exactly is this manager you found at a strip joint?"
    While there's no rule that says there can't be two "Empire"-like shows at once (and "Star" will take its place in January while the established program takes a break), everything about "Star" feels hopelessly derivative, from the liberal sprinkling of music to the hyper-sexuality.
    Indeed, the pilot seems less to have been written than factory-line assembled from a checklist of elements. Star, in particular, has no compunctions about trading on her looks to get ahead, in a hammy way that brought the aforementioned camp classic "Showgirls" (and its unintentional giggles) to mind.
    Fox is introducing the series early so it can capitalize on "Empire's" midseason finale, which should give the new show every chance of getting sampled and potentially finding an audience. It's scheduled to return January 4, and while the show calms down a bit over two additional episodes previewed -- and seeks to deliver a few shocks -- the writing still traffics mostly in tired clichés.
    Charitably, the newcomer trio has talent, amply displayed by the elaborately choreographed numbers. Still, "Star" feels less like an original series than an uninspired clone. And while Daniels can be forgiven for repeating a riff that worked, his latest show mostly demonstrates the gap between launching a single hit and actually building an empire.
    "Star" premieres December 14 at 9 p.m. on Fox.