Dream. Believe. Survive.
This was the mantra of StarStuck, the phenomenal reality-based artista search of GMA-7. Now, who would have thought that the show would spawn so many young talents now flooding our television sets and movie screens?
Initially, there had been doubts that the show would last for long. The popularity of “realiTV,” coined from the words “reality” and “television,” was at its peak when StarStruck was launched on October 27, 2003. Skeptics said the timing wasn’t strategic—the market was already saturated and the viewers had enough of these reality shows. GMA-7 had Extra Challenge and 30 days, while ABS-CBN also had Star Circle Quest. And we watched these each night on primetime.
But to the surprise of the many, Kapuso network’s own search has thrived for the past four seasons, plus an edition for kids was also aired.
StarStruck’s pilot year was phenomenal. Fourteen hopefuls tried their luck, and some went on to become GMA-7’s biggest stars.
Why and how?
The teens had to undergo a series of tests and had to pass the tastes and standards of the Council and of TV viewers. Those who failed would get eliminated and be called the “Avengers.” What differentiated StarStruck from the rest was how it defined the word “star.”
1) One doesn’t need a showbiz connection to qualify.
2) He/she should be talented: can dance, can act , can sing
3) S/he should not just be good looking, but charming as well. Charisma is a crucial factor in determining the winner.
In short, he/she’s the total package. As he subjects himself to the challenges, he has to shine and survive.
Season 1: Phenomenal!
Top Four: Jennylyn Mercado, Mark Herras, Rainier Castillo, and Yasmien Kurdi.
GMA called for teenagers to audition for the first season of StarStruck. Many anonymous teeners flocked to the GMA headquarters and to SM Malls for the auditions, hoping to enter showbizlandia.
The first episode aired on October 27, 2003. It showed the process of eliminating the thousands of hopefuls to 100 to 60, from 60 to 30, and from 30 to the Final 14.
The first 14 were: Alvin Aragon, Cristine Reyes, Anton dela Paz, Jade Lopez, Sheena Halili, Tyron Perez, Katrina Halili, Christian Esteban, Dion Ignacio, Nadine Samonte, Yasmien Kurdi, Rainier Castillo, Jennylyn Mercado, and Mark Herras.
Douglas Nierras facilitated one of the most memorable workshops. The fiery choreographer scolded early favorite Rainier Castillo for having two left feet during the dance workshops. It was a baptism on fire for the newbies.
Love teams also developed during the middle stage of the season. Mark Herras was smitten by Cristine Reyes, the younger sister of singer-actress Ara Mina. Dion Ignacio admitted having a crush on Nadine Samonte. Christian Esteban’s closeness with Jade Lopez did not become privy to the public.
TV audiences witnessed real-life drama. Many admired the brotherhood bond between Dion and Alvin Aragon, who admitted that Dion had been like a kuya to him. People also noticed the tension between Nadine and Yasmien Kurdi, who were both perceived as the strongest contenders. And of course, the tear-jerking moments every time a member would get eliminated. In an interview, Ara Mina was even heard making a comment about her sister’s elimination. Cristine Reyes was the first female to become an Avenger (their term for those who did not make it to the Final Four).
The StarStruck fever paved the way for the creation of StarStruck Playhouse and Stage, a show where the Final 14 showcased their acting skills. It was aired during weekdays, with Friday devoted to performance assessment. Raymond Gutierrez, Cogie Domingo, and Chynna Hortaleza hosted the daily show.
Joey de Leon, Joyce Bernal, and Ida Henares of GMA-7 Artist Center served as the StarStruck Council jurors. Each week, the survivors had to listen to the criticisms, and sometimes praises, of the Council members.
The season ended with the Final Four: Jennylyn, Mark, Yasmien, and Rainer. During the early stage of the fame game, Rainer was the most popular. His similarity with Vic Zhou, a member of Taiwanese group F4, had the girls screaming his name and swooning over him. His tiny dimple was also a plus.
The Ultimate Survivors title went to Mark Herras and Jennylyn Mercado, the Bad Boy of the Dance Floor and the Singing Sweetheart, respectively. The two became instant millionaires, and eventually, the hottest reel-and-real life loveteam. Less than a year after they won, they became primetime TV favorites, and starred in Forever in My Heart (2004) Engkantadia (2005), Engkantadia: Pag-ibig Hanggang Wakas (2006), and I Luv NY (2006).
The Final Judgment, which was inspired by the movie Matrix, was held at the Araneta Coliseum, with top talent managers Lolit Solis and Douglas Quijano already gauging the star potential and quality of the winners.
The first season was directed by Lino Cayetano, and hosted by Dingdong Dantes and Nancy Castiglione.
StarStruck Kids: Psychologically taxing
Final Four: Sam Bumatay, Kurt Perez, Miguel Tanfelix, Ella Guevarra
This was an offshoot of the successful first season of the reality show. This time they called for children aged five to seven years old. The show began on March 2004, a month after the finals of Season 1.
The chosen 14 were called “The 14K”: Madi Yu, Renz Juan, Serge Septimo, Uno Guerta, Sandy Talag, Paul Salas, Shamel Leask, Gabriel Roxas, Bea Binen, JM Reyes, Miguel Tanfelix, Ella Guevarra.
Like the senior version, one contestant was eliminated every week. It became an emotional journey for the kids who had to leave the show. Nonetheless, they thoroughly enjoyed the workshops.
The kids displayed their talents, wit, and even a bit of their tantrums. Paul and Gabriel became frenemies (coined from “friends” and “enemies”), Uno and JM endeared themselves to fans because of their kakulitan, Sam reminded the Pinoys of the young Aiza Seguerra, Ella and Kurt were adored for their cuteness.
A second season though did not push through as the network considered the criticisms too psychologically taxing on the first batch of kids.
The show was hosted by Jolina Magdangal. Judges for the search were Joey De Leon, Janice de Belen, and Aiza Seguerra. The last two were former child stars who grew up in the showbiz limelight.
Season 2: Second fiddle
Top Four: Mike Tan, CJ Muere, Ryza Cenon, LJ Reyes
Season 2 which began in October of 2004 was met by some of changes.
First was Jolina Magdangal sharing hosting duties with Dingdong Dantes. Second, two new judges joined the council—drama actor Christopher de Leon and director Louie Ignacio. But the mechanics of the show were pretty much the same.
The fourteen newbies were Jelaine Santos, Kevin Santos, Ailyn Luna, Ken Punzalan, Ana David, Chris Martin, Krizzy Jareño, Benj Pacia, Megan Young, Kirby de Jesus, LJ Reyes, CJ Muere, Ryza Cenon and Mike Tan.
For this season, like Rainier Castillo in the previous season, Mike Tan got a verbal beating from Douglas Nierras. They also attended acting workshops under Gina Alajar, and a fashion workshop by Nina Ricci Alagao and Wilma Doesn’t.
But there was a twist along the way.
In an episode called “Avengers Strike Back,” CJ and Krizzy—who were previously eliminated— were asked to join the Survivor Six composed of Ryza, LJ, Megan, Benj, Mike, and Kirby. After two weeks, Krizzy and Kirby were eliminated and CJ dropped his “avenger” status. CJ, the wild card, beat Benj and became part of the Final Four. It was a heart wrenching moment for Benj, who had become part of the top three consistently.
Krizzy became the crush of the boys, but she gave her heart to Kirby. There was a week that they were scolded by the StarStruck council because young love was already getting in the way. LJ and Mike also became an item.
The Elektra-themed Finals was held at the Marikina Sports Complex with Ryza Cenon and Mike Tan winning the StarStruck Ultimate Survivors title and LJ and CJ winning the First Princess and Prince respectively.
Critics deemed this batch as second fiddle to the first. Not everyone was given big breaks. Ryza’s biggest break was in playing the role of Fantastic Girl opposite Mark Herras in Fantastic Man. Mike has been playing minor roles in primetime offerings I Luv NY, Sugo and Marimar, and other shows of GMA-7. LJ has been cast as the lead, opposite JC De Vera, in one season of Magic Kamison. CJ, who became the modern-day and grown-up version of Ding in Darna, is now focused on his studies.
Season 3: Most
Top Four: Marky Cielo, Jackie Rice, Iwa Moto and Gian Carlos
Season 3 was a nationwide invasion. Auditions were held in key cities: Davao, Iloilo, Dagupan, Cebu, and Naga. From the thousands and thousands of youngsters who lined up, seven boys and seven girls would be selected from Mega Manila; and another seven boys and seven girls chosen from the provinces. From these 28 hopefuls, they would be whittled down to the Final 14.
The Season began later than expected. The first airing of the show was on December 2005.
Unlike before, when the contest was aired Monday to Friday (with Friday as elimination day), this season was shown virtually everyday, with Sunday for elimination.
Raymond Gutierrez joined the hosts Dingdong and Jolina. Lorna Tolentino became a member of the Starstruck Council. Joey de Leon and Louie Ignacio retained their seats in the council.
The Final 14 were: Jeric Rizalado, Vaness del Moral, Johan Santos, Rea Nakpil, Sara Larsson, Arci Muñoz, Bugz Daigo, Vivo Ouano, Jana Roxas, Chuck Allie, Iwa Moto, Gian Carlos, Jackie Rice and Marky Cielo.
This batch, so far, was considered the most controversial and pasaway.
During the season's sixth week, some members-Sara, Jackie, and Jana-figured in a din. The three girls reportedly viewed a confidential file on the StarStruck computer. Consequently, Sara left the group. But the issue remained.
Jackie and Jana accused Arci, another survivor, of lying. The show aired footage captured by surveillance cameras, which showed the girls taking turns at going near the computer. But they all denied opening the confidential file.
The week after, Sara was given the chance to reveal her side of the story. On that same night, Arci was eliminated.
And, of course, we all remember the crying bout of Iwa Moto. She tearfully complained about the ill behavior of other survivors and said she’d rather leave the show than mingle with “plastic” people.
These interesting sub-plots captured real-life drama, said to be the unique selling point of Pinoy Big Brother, which was launched that same year.
Judgment day, which had a Gladiator theme, was held on March 12, 2005, at the Marikina Sports Complex. More than 10,000 thronged to watch the event.
Marky was declared the Ultimate Sole Survivor and he took home 10 million pesos worth of cash and gift prizes. Jackie was chosen the Ultimate Female Survivor. Iwa and Gian were the runners-up.
Season 4: The Next Level Top Six: Prince Stefan, Aljur Abrenica, Mart Escudero, Kris Bernal, Rich Asuncion, Jewel Mische
On its fourth year, the show’s biggest challenge was to present a novelty. After three seasons, the biggest question of the viewers: What’s new?
For one, it was dubbed StarStruck: The Next Level.
Age requirement was also expanded, from its previous 15-18 years old to 16 to 21 years old. Voting from text messages and the Internet would now constitute 50 percent of the criteria, from the previous 35 percent.
The StarStruck Council underwent a revamp with Lorna Tolentino heading it (it used to be Joey de Leon), together with Louie Ignacio and talent manager Douglas Quijano.
And instead of two winners, this season chose four: the Ultimate Sweethearts, Ultimate Sweetheart, and Ultimate Hunk.
Those who made it to the Top 20 were Lizzy Pecson, Chad Burden, Jean de Castro, Lui Perez, Chariz Solomon, Kiko Juinio, Dave Valentino, Renee Lascuna, Hazel Uy, Dex Quindoza, Jan Manual, Rich Asuncion, Jesi Corcuera, Paulo Avelino, Stef Presscot, Rich Asuncion, Prince Stefan, Mart Escudero, Kris Bernal, Aljur Abrenica and Jewel Mische.
The catch: one of them openly admitted she’s a lesbian. How would she fare in the workshops? If she wins, is she going to be the Ultimate Hunk or Ultimate Sweetheart?
There were more twists: the “Avengers versus Survivors,” which had the Avengers competing with the eight survivors, and the Danger 8, which changed the fate of some survivors. Rich, who had been eliminated, became part of the Final Six. This broke the heart of Stef Prescott who had been always made it to the top four slots. Mart Escudero, who just made his comeback, prevented Paulo from making it to the Final Six.
In the end, Mart and Kris bagged the Ultimate Love team; Jewel Mische, the Ultimate Sweetheart title; and Aljur, the Ultimate Hunk. Each won one million pesos and contracts worth 2.5 million pesos. Rich and Prince were the runners-up.
Impact of StarStruck. The youth competition has given the Kapuso network its own farm system of discovering and honing new talents. It has become the youths’ access to showbizlandia.
GMA’s brightest stars today are products of the talent search—Mark and Jennylyn, whose love team has a huge following; Yasmien Kurdi, the afternoon drama princess; Marky Cielo, who now plays an important role in Zaido; Nadine, a favorite leading lady; Ryza, who is slowly inching her way to becoming a teeny-bopper princess; Katrina Halili, who is fast building up her character actress image; Cristine Reyes, one of the next big thing in the industry; Iwa Moto, who has been visible on TV since she won as the First Princess.
Some are still bit players, but have promising careers ahead of them. There were a few who chose to stay out of the limelight. And some who got unlucky.
For the unlucky ones, attitude, indeed, is crucial in determining a showbiz neophyte’s rise to stardom.
No mantra could have been more apt: dream, believe, survive.