While the hugely successful "American Idol" has spawned its fair share of copycats, primarily from the people involved with "American Idol," it's safe to say that the best imitator is from Mr. Reality TV himself — Mark Burnett.
I'm talking about "Rock Star: Supernova," over on that other network, CBS.
I'm embarrassed to say that I've never have I cried so much during any TV series before. Not even "Friends," although I cried over that show because I couldn't believe we as Americans adopted that group as our alter egos, but I digress.
If you're not familiar with the summer series, "Rock Star" is a singing competition where unknown singers vie against one another to front a big-named band.
Like most reality shows, the contestants live in the same house for those dramatic personality clashes — a reality TV staple since MTV's "Real World." But for the most part, these folks are pretty decent, so the fights aren't nearly as entertaining as the performances.
Last season "Pretty Vegas" singer/songwriter J.D. Fortune won the prize, and is now the lead singer of '80s rock giant INXS — who have made a pretty good comeback since the show.
This time around, we're down to the final six to front a new band, Supernova, which stars the notorious Tommy Lee on drums, Metallica's Jason Newsted on bass and legendary guitarist Gilby Clarke on, well, yeah, guitar.
But while the band is extremely important to the credibility of the show — after all, along with co-host Dave Navarro the guys judge the talents of the contestants — it's Burnett's crew that does one hell of a job casting the show with unknown yet compelling talent.
These men and women hail from all over the world.
Dilana, from Johannesburg, South Africa, is this generation's Stevie Nicks (although Tina Turner works just as well). She is a performer who can handle just about any rock song ever written, and she makes each one her own in a way that blows the listener's mind.
And if you can get past the tattoos and the facial piercings (I know), Dilana will have you in the palm of her hand like that sixth grade teacher you harbored your very first crush on.
A few weeks ago she sang Harry Chapin's "Cats in a Cradle" and I've got to tell you, I wept like a baby.
But it wasn't the first time.
New Yorker Ryan Star had me crying when he did REM's "Losing My Religion," solo on piano. Intense, with a beautiful voice and a commanding stage presence, Star is hands down a star.
Then I cried again when Iceland's already famous Magni had his family flown in (he's got a baby boy just learning to walk), and the courageous singer strapped on a guitar and did Live's "The Dolphins Cry" acoustic, with no backup band.
Amazing is the only word to describe the performance.
Magni followed up a few episodes later with "Creep" by Radiohead that also had me choking back tears.
Australia's pretty boy Toby Rand has pulled some great performances out of his hat, and his arrangement on the classic "Layla" — appropriately updating it with some grunge — was a nice surprise.
And while Massachusetts blonde beauty Storm Large will most likely not be fronting Supernova, she'll have no problem packing them in with her band The Balls.
Throw in a great rock voice in the form of Canadian Lukas Rossi, a performer with a unique flair for costume, hair and makeup (I never thought I'd be writing those words in succession), and this show is a must-see for anybody who loves music.
I don't know about you, but to me music is an extraordinary thing, and when it's done right, like it is on "Rock Star: Supernova," it's a truly powerful experience.
Watching "Rock Star" twice a week during the summer is like going to a private concert in an intimate rock club, complete with the best House Band in the country, great lighting and the hottest hosts in Brooke Burke and Navarro.
Throw in notoriety and rock legends, and you've got yourself a helluva good time.
My only complaint is that CBS doesn't air this show in High Definition. Grrr!
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