Pop Stars

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THE WB

A would-be diva belts it

One of last year's small pleasures, ABC's Making the Band, had reality TV's most apt premise. It took a group of boy singers, put them through boot camp and selected the five members of a band it called O-Town, who set out to become teenystars. If reality TV presents artificial situations as real, at least this was a real artificial situation; that's actually how most boy bands are created.

By the same token, if WB's Popstars (Fridays, 8:30 p.m. E.T.) is the most derivative new reality show (it's Making the Band with girls), it should be: girl- and boy-band music is a derivative genre. That said, the debut, featuring the first round of auditions, shows that this lip-synch act isn't so easy. The flat narration and clumsy pacing make you miss Making the Band's fluid style. Yet there's something about the divas' raw hunger that affects you--even, or especially, the musically challenged ones belting out the umpteenth rendition of What a Girl Wants. (Several talented but overweight singers made the first cut, but the final five--whom WB showed, in silhouette, to reporters last week--were clearly svelte.)

The rough edges don't mean the group won't succeed; powerful forces want them to. The show's finale is set to air around the time their album comes out on London-Sire. (Network and label are part of TIME's parent, AOL Time Warner; no plans yet for a Popstars CD single bound into TIME.) Hey, packaged, derivative fame is fame nonetheless. And fame is what a girl wants.