"The Road to Stardom," which premieres tonight at 8 on Channel 38, provides us with a new set of hopefuls to judge, to roll our eyes at in the manner of Simon Cowell or to praise like Paula Abdul. The series begins with 13 hip-hop-influenced singers and will eliminate one each week until the winner is awarded a record contract, the promise of a released single, and $100,000 chump change for [Celine Dion], but still, a nice start. Although the show doesn't have the suspense of "American Idol" or the light comedy of "America's Next Top Model," it's not terminally sincere like the worst of the genre, 2003's "Fame." [MISSY ELLIOTT], with her wry and unsentimental eye, makes sure of that.
Elliott is the final judge of the competitors, presiding over their fates in the same way Donald Trump rules on his "Apprentice" sharks. Before she gets involved, though, her three surrogates singer-producer Teena Marie, producer Dallas Austin, and manager Mona Scott watch the kids compete in challenges and choose the bottom two to bring before Missy. In other words, they do the suffering for her.