Ed McMahon (1983-1995)
Arsenio Hall (2003-2004)
Sam Riddle (1983-1995)
Star Search '95
Syndication (Weekly): 9/10/1983 - 5/20/1995
Star Search 2003
CBS: 1/8/2003 - 3/13/2004
Syndicated Packagers
Bob Banner Associates (1983-1988)
CBS Packagers Productions/2929 Productions
Metromedia Television (1983-1986)
TPE - Television Program Enterprises (1986-1993)
Rysher Entertainment (1993-1995)
CBS Paramount Television (2003-2004)

Star Search (also formerly known as Ed McMahon's Star Search) is the world's greatest talent competition, long before American Idol & America's Got Talent.


Contestants compete in several genres of entertainment. While categories varied slightly from season to season, the seven basic categories were:

Male Vocalist
Female Vocalist
Junior Vocalist (seasons vary, but has been part of the show since the beginning)
Vocal Group

Ed McMahon's 80s & 90s Syndicated VersionEdit

Potential contestants audition to be on the show. If selected, they will compete. In each category, two (groups of) people compete, (a) champion(s) and (a) challenger(s). Usually the challenger(s) performs first, while the champion(s) performs second. In later seasons, the champion performs first.

All acts are judged by a panel of four judges, each judge can award an act from one to four stars (later changed to five stars). Once both acts are complete, Ed reveals the scores, best average wins. If there is a tie, a studio audience vote breaks the tie in which the results are revealed at the end of the show.

Any performer must win at least several shows in a row, dependent on the number of shows left in the season, to earn an entry into the next round of the competition; usually this was three or four wins in a row. In later seasons, three match winners were automatically retired. In this case, two new performers compete in that category the following week.

The rules for the Quarter and Semi Final shows are the same as above, only random draw (or alphabetical order) determines who will perform first. Note that scores are never revealed in the Quarter or Semi Finals, and only the winners are announced.

Arsenio Hall's CBS VersionEdit

In the CBS remake which came to fruition due to the success of American Idol, only four of the categories (three in the second season) were in vain. Plus the contestants scores were no longer averaged out at the end. And not only that, during the first season, and in the finals of the second season, viewers at home got a chance to vote on which contestant(s) is/are worthy to continue.

Judges (CBS Version)Edit

Naomi Judd
Ben Stein
Carol Leifer
Ahmet Zappa
MC Lyte
Matti Leshem
Jessica Andrews

Notable competitors on Star SearchEdit

  • 4 Boys & a Babe, 1991 (Junior Dancers)
  • Aaliyah, 1988 (Singer, Actress)
  • Adam Sandler (Comedian)
  • Alanis Morissette, 1988 (Singer)
  • Alisan Porter, 1987 (Junior Vocalist), starred in the 1990 film Curly Sue and won season 10 of The Voice
  • Ami Dolenz, 1984 (Teen Actor)
  • Anna Maria Perez de Tagle, 2003 (Junior Vocalist)
  • Ashley Argota, 2003
  • Beth Hart, 1993 (Female Vocalist winner)
  • Beverly Leech (Leading Lady)
  • Beyoncé (Female Singer)
  • Bianca Ryan, 2004 (Singer)
  • Bill Engvall (Comedian)
  • Bill Kaulitz, 2003 (lead singer of Tokio Hotel; appeared on the German version of Star Search)
  • Billy Dean
  • Bobbie Brown[1], 1987 (Spokesmodel, 13-time winner)
  • Brad Garrett 1984 (Comedian)
  • Britney Spears, 1992 (Singer)
  • Carlos Mencia, 1991 (Comedian)
  • Charles Divins (Male Spokesmodel winner)
  • Cherie Wimberly, 1993 (Spokesmodel)
  • Christina Aguilera, 1990 (Singer)
  • Coors Light Twins (Diane Klimaszewski & Elaine Klimaszewski), 1987 (Teen Dance category) They later appeared as models in the 1990 vrsion of Let's Make a Deal.
  • Countess Vaughn, 1988 (Junior Vocalist Champion) She would come back as celebrity judge in the 2003 version
  • Cynthia Gouw, 1988 (Spokesmodel Winner, 3 time Emmy award winning TV anchor/reporter)
  • Dana Gould, 1987 (Comedian)
  • Dave Chappelle (Comedian)
  • David Archuleta, 2003 (Junior Vocal Champion)
  • David Raleigh, 1990 (Singer, songwriter, piano player)
  • David Slater, 1987 (Male Vocalist Champion)
  • Debbie James, (Spokesmodel) Went on to star in the film 976-FILM II, and later co-hosted alongside Bob Eubanks in Powerball: The Game Show.
  • Dennis Miller (Comedian)
  • Destiny's Child, 1991 (Singers as Girls Tyme)
  • Devin DeVasquez, 1986
  • Diana DeGarmo (Singer)
  • Drew Carey (Comedian)
  • Eddie & Lisa (Dancers)
  • Elisa Fiorillo, 1983 (Female Vocalist winner)
  • Garcelle Beauvais (Spokesmodel)
  • Greg Mowry (Singer)
  • Ingo Oschmann, 2003 (Comedy champion)
  • J.D. Roth, 1984 (Teen Actor) He would come back as celebrity judge seasons later.
  • Jackie Martling (Comedian)
  • James Bonamy
  • Janel Parrish, 2003 (Singer)
  • Jenny Jones, 1986
  • Jessica Sierra (Singer)
  • Jessica Simpson (Singer)
  • Joey Pearson (Singer)
  • Jon "Do-Knock" Cruz (Member of Super Cr3w, champions of America's Best Dance Crew Season 2)
  • Jordis Unga, 2004 (Singer)
  • Joseph Williams (Toto lead singer from 1986 - 1988)
  • Josephine 'Banig' Roberto, 1989 (Singer)
  • Josh Strickland, 2004 (Singer)
  • Julie McCullough, 1987 (Spokesmodel)
  • Justin Timberlake, 1991 (Singer, as Justin Randall)
  • Karen Thomas, 1985 (Spokesmodel, as Karen Marie Thomas) She later became the co-host for $1,000,000 Chance of a Lifetime alongside Jim Lange in 1987.
  • Karina Pasian
  • Ken Ober
  • Kent James, 1993 (as a part of the music group Kent & the Kommotion)
  • Kevin James (Comedian)
  • Kiana Tom, 1992 (Spokesmodel, Fitness Guru)
  • Kimberly Caldwell (5-time Junior Vocalist winner)
  • LeAnn Rimes
  • Linda Eder, 1988 (Female Vocalist winner)
  • Lisa Tucker, 2003 (Singer)
  • Lizette Santana (a.k.a Lizé), 1994 (Singer)
  • Loni Love, 2003 (Comedianne)
  • Machel Montano, 1987 (International performing and recording artist)
  • Marc Summers
  • Mark & Laura Sellers (Teen Dancers)
  • Marne Patterson, 1989 (Junior Vocalist)
  • Martin Lawrence (Comedian)
  • Nadia Turner (Singer)
  • Natalie Horler, 2004 (lead singer of Cascada; appeared on the German version of Star Search)
  • Nick Lazzarini, 2003 (as a part of the dance group Hot Under the Collar)
  • Norm Macdonald (Comedian)
  • Pat McCurdy (Singer)
  • Phil Vassar, 1987 (Singer)
  • Q'Orianka Kilcher, 2002 (Singer)
  • Rashaan Patterson (Singer)
  • Ray Romano (Comedian)
  • Reva Rice (Singer)
  • Rissi Palmer (Singer)
  • Rondell Sheridan, 1991 (Comedian)
  • Rosie O'Donnell, 1984 (Comedian)
  • Ruben Gomez, 1986 (Junior Male Vocalist), lead singer for Menudo 1987-1990
  • Sawyer Brown, 1983 (Vocal Group Champion)
  • Scott Hoying, 2004 (Junior Singer) Lead singer for Pentatonix 2011-present
  • Shanice Wilson (Singer)
  • Sharon Stone, 1984 (Spokesmodel)
  • Shayna Steele, 1992 (Teen Vocalist)
  • Sinbad, 1985 (Comedian)
  • Sophie Tamiko Oda (Singer)
  • Spensha Baker 2004 (Junior Singer Finalist)
  • Steve Oedekerk (Comedian)
  • Sutton Foster, 1990 (Singer)
  • Támar, 2004 (Singer)
  • Tareva Henderson, 1986 (Singer)
  • Tatyana Ali (Singer; actress on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air)
  • Terri Lynn Doss (Spokesmodel)
  • The Boys, 1986 (Vocal Group)
  • The Kingpins, 1987 (Vocal Group Champion)
  • Theresa Ring, 1987 (Spokesmodel)
  • Tiffany, 1985 (Singer, second place finalist)
  • Tim Christofore (1995 Winner)
  • Timiney Figueroa 1990 (singer, semi-finalist)
  • Todd Berry, 1991 (Singer)
  • Tommy Gardner, 1991 (Junior Vocalist Grand Champion)
  • Tori Kelly (Singer)
  • Tracey Ross, 1984 (Spokesmodel winner)
  • Tracie Spencer, 1987 (Female Vocalist Champion)
  • Ty Herndon
  • Tyce Diorio (So You Think You Can Dance choreographer)
  • Usher (Singer)
  • Vic Mignogna, 1993 (Singer)
  • Vickie Natale, 2003 (Female Vocalist winner)
  • The Chavan, 2003 (Male Modeling winner)

In Popular CultureEdit

In the 2000 documentary film Just Melvin, Just Evil about James Ronald Whitney's grandfather named Melvin Just, clips of James appearance on Star Search from 1986 and 1987 can be seen.

Just Melvin Just Evil Star Search clip

ADDITIONAL NOTE: a clip of him appearing on Body Language could be seen as well.


Trade adsEdit


Earl Carroll Theatre (now known as Nickelodeon on Sunset) Hollywood, CA (Original Run)
Disney Hollywood Studios, Orlando, Florida (Revival)


72px-TV-PG icon svg


Joey Carbone


Al Masini


Pet Star - Pet themed version ran on Animal Planet from 2003-2005




Official Site (CBS Version|via Internet Archive)

YouTube VideosEdit

1984 Intro
1986 Intro