When You Actually Needed Talent to be on TV: A Look Back at “Star Search”

The other day, I found myself watching a Full House re-run where Joey was sad because he had made a deal with himself that in ten years, he’d be famous. The decade mark was fast approaching, and he still lived in his best friend’s basement. Fear not, because the Tanners sent in a tape to Star Search and Joey was chosen to be on the show. It hit me when they showed Ed McMahon: I had completely forgotten that I used to adore Star Search, and despite having no talents to showcase, wanted to be on it sooooo bad. 

I think I just wanted to dress up and be on stage, soaking in the applause. The funny thing is, I can remember every. single. episode. ever. of Full House, but all I really remember about Star Search is that I loved it. Off to Wikipedia I went, for a crash course is the show I would never be on.

Star Search first aired in 1983, when I was not yet born. It ran until 1995, which I found surprising; I don’t remember it still being on the air when I was 11, but apparently it was. There was also a relaunch with Arsenio Hall in 2003; that was the end of my first year in college, which must be why I don’t remember that, either. For a show that I was obsessed with when I was five years old, I am definitely lacking knowledge.

There were a lot of categories people could compete in, from male and female vocalists to comedy and dance. Each week, a challenger went up against the champion from the week before, and I always felt bad for the person who got like, one-and-a-half stars, even if I did think they were pretty bad.

A huge number of now-famous people appeared on the show, like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. but there were also a ton of stars who I had no idea were on Star Search, like Beyonce (1993), Brad Garrett (1984), Rosie O’Donnell (also 1984), Sharon Stone (1984, as a spokesmodel), and Usher (1991), Jenny Jones, the former talk show host, was even on as a comedian (!).

Star Search led the way for American Idol (which is why it was brought back when AI was bringing in huge ratings), but it didn’t use people’s delusions to embarrass them like the shows today. That’s why I don’t like watching AI or America’s Got Talent; I can’t stand watching people embarrass themselves, especially when they don’t understand they’re being used as a joke. It’s gross.

I think it’s time to bring back a program like Star Search where the people actually have talent, showcase that talent, and don’t have to worry about being treated harshly. And if it does come back, it needs to have a “useless knowledge of random televised shows from the 1980s/1990s” competition, because I know I’ll win.

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Catherine

Catherine is a Southern California based freelance writer, whose work has appeared in everything from the New York Times to Entertainment Weekly. The highlight of her life (so far) was being featured on MSNBC for a story she wrote on Hello Kitty wines...she knew one day her love of all things HK would come in handy.

2 thoughts on “When You Actually Needed Talent to be on TV: A Look Back at “Star Search””

  1. Okay, I had to YouTube “Jenny Jones stand-up” because I couldn’t believe that. Wowza. So 80s!

    I agree with you about the new talent shows. I hate watching people embarrass themselves. I also hate mediocre singers who are there mostly because they’re young and pretty. If I watch a show about taleneted people, I want to see something extraordinary. Like this –

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