StarStruck is making a comeback on television for its seventh season.
Four years since its last season, which proclaimed Migo Adecer and Klea Pineda as the Ultimate Survivors, GMA-7's original reality-based artista search returns with three new judges or StarStruck council members, namely, Heart Evangelista, Jose Manalo, and Cherie Gil.
What became the basis of the selection process?
In an exclusive interview with PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal) during StarStruck's June 10 media conference, Senior Program Manager Enri Calaycay explains how the producers arrived at such line-up.
She says, "Siyempre, number one, the credibility, of course. Kapag naglagay ka ng judges, credible.
"Alam namin na mapapagkatiwalaan namin sila sa pagpili ng next na artistang hahangaan, the next Kapuso artist."
The interesting mix took various factors—such as popularity and entertainment value, to name a few—into consideration.
Calaycay continues, "We also understand na as a show, because we are still a program, we're meant to entertain the audience na yung mix nila is good enough to provide entertainment din naman at the same time to the viewers.
"And of course para rin yung market, wider ang reach namin, kaya meron kaming Heart Evangelista, na hindi lang siya artista sa TV. Sikat online din.
"Si Miss Cherie, hindi naman kailangang i-explain si Miss Cherie.
"And then si Jose, aside from credible naman siya, he's been an auditon master for Eat Bulaga!, ang tagal-tagal na niyan, di ba. Nakita din naman natin ano naging produkto ng Eat Bulaga!.
"Yung entertainment value, malaking bagay siya. Yung mix nila is coming from different angles, e. Nakita na kasi namin sila during judges' preview, yung sila pa lang, ang saya ng panoorin."
Unlike the previous seasons, the present judges are already involved in the selection of the top 40 contenders.
Prior to that, the screening will be handled by GMA-7 directors Mark Reyes and Gina Alajar, and APT Entertainment Chairman Antonio P. Tuviera.
Referring to the involvement of Direk Mark, Direk Gina, and Mr. T (how Mr. Tuviera is called in showbiz), Calaycay says, "That was for the callback, kasi after the nationwide auditions, umupo ang mga iba-ibang directors at producers ng GMA doon sa cattle call.
"Kung sino man ang na-shortlist doon, ang next na nagsala diyan, creative directors ng network at saka directors pa rin.
"Lahat naman ng nasala doon, si Direk Mark, Direk Gina, and si Mr. Tony Tuviera ang nagsala to choose from the Top 80 to Top 40. And then Top 40, judges na.
"Nakita rin talaga nila. Kapag sumalang na iyan, medyo na-polish na, nabihisan na, pero even before that stage, nakita na nila ito na diamonds in the rough pa lang."
StarStruck is set to premiere this June 15 on GMA-7. It will air on Saturdays at 7:55 p.m., and on Sundays at 7:40 p.m.
StarStruck is hosted by Dingdong Dantes and Jennylyn Mercado, with Kyline Alcantara as the host for its online show, Inside StarStruck.
According to Calaycay, loyal viewers of StarStruck will have a different experience watching the seventh season, which will introduce a place called the "Dream Hub."
Calaycay elaborates, "That's an area where dito sa stage, where they stay bago sila sumalang sa stage.
"Iyan din yung area where their families stay to watch them kasi before nasa audience.
"Ito, because si Jennylyn as our host naman, yun ang focus niya, coming from the contest herself, nakaka-relate siya sa pinagdadaanan ng mga contestants, so siya rin sa reality part na kakausapin niya yung mga magulang habang nagpe-perform."
Just like StarStruck's fifth season, the seventh season will be aired on weekends.
But the set-up during the fifth season was that the behind-the-scenes and tests were aired on Saturdays, while the live shows and eliminations were held on Sundays.
Calaycay says the seventh season will have a less-predictable format.
"Hindi, ibang-iba na. Yun din ang iba for this season, iba na ang format niya from the previous six seasons dahil puwedeng may mangyaring tanggalan na agad on a Saturday.
"Hindi na kagaya before na Saturday, ipapakita lang yung performances, and then the following day pa [elimination].
"Ito, Saturday pa lang, makikita mo na kung sino yung magra-rank nang mataas, sino yung nasa bottom. Hindi puwedeng, 'Bukas na lang ako manonood kasi Sunday naman yung result.'
"Hindi, kasi meron kang mami-miss na Saturday."
They also scrapped the previous execution where each week, hopefuls were asked to focus on honing one skill.
"Ito, puwedeng mag-mix sa isang week kung ano yung test. Makikita rin kasi ng tao yung behind the scenes online.
"So masusubaybayan rin sila off-cam, akala mo okay na sila, pero makikita mo kung ano rin yung ginagawa nila.
"Nakabantay pa rin yung mga camera kahit akala nila, hindi on-air, pero yung sinasabi na character ng mga contestants, lalabas at lalabas kung ano yung natural na character, e, di ba?
"Kasi yun yung mga makikita behind the scenes, e, kung paano ba sila makisalamuha sa kapwa contestant."
Most importantly, the audience will have a bigger involvement in choosing the winners.
"Binalik namin for this season, nag-start kami noong first season, 50 percent votes, 50 percent scores of judges ang score ng bawat contestant. And then the following seasons, naging 60-40.
"But this time, ibabalik namin sa 50-50, so mararamdaman ulit ng audience na, 'Kalahati ng score mo, sa amin galing. So meron ako talagang investment sa iyo.'"
As times are changing, Calaycay points out that social media will play crucial in determining StarStruck's Male and Female Ultimate Survivors.
"Winner pa rin na ikaw ang Jennylyn ng current times, pero more than just being able to act or perform on TV or in the movies, kaya mo rin tumawid sa ibang platforms because yun na ang panahon natin ngayon.
"Like what Dingdong also said, this time kasi, ang hinahanap namin, yung total media star.
"Kapag artista ka ngayon, hindi puwedeng sa TV at sa movie ka lang, e, di ba? Meron nang bagong platform, yung online.
"Alam mo rin how to communicate with your fans, di ba?
"At saka alam mo rin yung material na dapat i-post online para tuluy-tuloy lang yung susubaybayan ka ng fans mo. So yun din yung titingnan namin na aspect sa kanila."
Won't GMA Artist Center (GMAAC) have a hand in selecting the survivors?
It can be recalled that GMAAC Head Ida Henares was part of season 1's StarStruck council.
Calaycay says that GMA-7's taelnt arm will have no direct involvement in the competition.
She explains, "Kasi ang mangyayari eventually, kung sino man yung mananalo o kahit hindi, kapag nakita nilang puwede iyan, may potential, puwede pa rin nilang i-invite to be part of GMA."