It should be exciting to watch ’80s R&B boy band New Edition journey from genesis to stardom, but not even a rendition of “Candy Girl” gives this three-night dramatization the spark that made the group so memorable. Clumsy writing and poor pacing get in the way of an inherently compelling origin story that involves everything from bad managers to backstage gunplay.
On the plus side, the two sets of actors playing New Edition as kids and adults — including Empire‘s Bryshere Y. Gray as Michael Bivins— are charming and fully capable of fancy footwork and smooth vocals. Particularly compelling are the kids, who will capture your heart as they find their voices and learn to dance together, developing the rich harmonies and impeccably synchronized choreography that helped the group make their mark. For proof, check out the pipes on Stranger Things‘ Caleb McLaughlin as Ricky Bell. We knew he had vocal talent — he played Young Simba in The Lion King on Broadway — but here he gets a chance to really show the world what he’s got. B-
The New Edition Story begins Tuesday, Jan. 24 at 9 p.m. on BET.