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'Celebrity Circus' producer: "I think this is a great family show"


By Christopher Rocchio, 05/30/2008 

Executive producer Matt Kunitz feels NBC's new Celebrity Circus reality series will be able to strike a chord with viewers of all ages and differentiate itself from other reality competition shows starring celebrities.

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"I think this is a great family show. Most reality shows out there are not really geared towards the family. We really think this is something that children and adults of all ages will watch together," Kunitz told Reality TV World during a recent conference call.

"I think it's really exciting that it's a show that the family can watch together. We are doing the traditional circus which the younger kids will appreciate.  But we're also mixing it with a real Cirque du Soleil feel on the acts that we're doing. On top of that, we're adding popular music. We have a great cast, amazing stunts, a really great, energetic, fun host that doesn't take himself too seriously.  Obviously, safety is a concern but beyond that, we're all having - we're all out there to have a good time. And if we're having a good time, we believe the audience is going to have a good time with us."

Celebrity Circus will premiere Wednesday, June 11 at 9:30PM ET/PT, with 90-minute episodes continuing to air weekly in the Wednesdays at 9:30PM ET/PT time slot.

"It's [filmed in] real time. It's a grueling training schedule. It's eight weeks before we start shooting. And then once we start shooting they continue to train during the whole run of the show," Kunitz told reporters during the conference call.  "They are training five to six days a week and they're training anywhere from six to eight hours a day. They're constantly with us and they are all bruised and sore."

Able to attest to that during the conference call was former The Brady Bunch actor, The Surreal Life houseguest and current My Fair Brady co-star Christopher Knight -- who is one of Celebrity Circus' six cast members along with former Melrose Place and General Hospital actor Antonio Sabato Jr.; R&B soul singer Blu Cantrell; Olympic gold medalist swimmer Janet Evans; former Jackass star Jason "Wee Man" Acuna; and former Dancing with the Stars participant, The Real Gilligian's Island castaway and supermodel Rachel Hunter.

Knight described Celebrity Circus as "boot camp and beyond."

"It's amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it and have the right training even in a short amount of time," he told reporters.  "I mean, I don't want to mislead people and make them think that in fact we're going to look like a dead ringer for a Cirque du Soleil act - but a facsimile of it."

Hosted by The Singing Bee host and former Dancing with the Stars celebrity participant Joey Fatone, Celebrity Circus will follow the six celebrities as they're pitted against one another in a head-to-head competition that will feature various challenges in the form of 15 circus acts.

"We're supposed to perform a different routine every week. In concept, that means these eight weeks that we've had in preparation, we have been preparing all of those routines," Knight explained.  "So we're having to share that time amongst different apparatuses and different trainers."

Knight never appeared on CBS' Circus of the Stars series when it aired from the late 1970s to early 1990s, but said it's still different from Celebrity Circus.

"They had more time and they had that focus of only one routine, and to get it down," he said.  "This is much more difficult. This is a battle. This is an internal battle. It's a psychological battle. It's certainly a physical battle because you're wearing yourself out knowing you have so little time."

Kunitz described it a "very tough" to cast for Celebrity Circus.

"We wanted to have a diverse cast as far as their background, whether they were music, television, actors, singers," he said.  "So we wanted that diversity, but we also really needed them to have some physicality. They needed to be able to commit to this incredibly rigorous training.  We also wanted people that had passion."

Kunitz added while he thinks the show's format would have been "possible" sans celebrities, he thinks it works better with them as the participants.

"I think that having the celebrities just ups the odds of it being more successful. People like reality TV because they can live vicariously through the characters that they see.  I feel that by having celebrities there that you already know, that it makes it a little bit easier for you to latch on," he explained.  "Hopefully you're going to watch this and feel like there's someone in this cast that you can relate to that could be you or your sister, or your neighbor, or your brother and feel like that's someone I know.  And that works with any reality show. And I think that when you put celebrities in, you already feel like you know them and that will help."

Once the cast fell into place, Kunitz said it was time to see who could do what when it came to the 15 circus acts, which range from walking the tight wire and juggling or twirling fire knives to being shot 60-feet out of a human catapult and swinging from the ceiling while performing complex moves.

"We did an assessment of all the celebrities in the first week to kind of figure out their physicality and what acts they would be better at," explained Kunitz.

The celebrities will be aided by "top experts" in the circus world who specialize in the show's featured acts and also trained with the participants for eight weeks leading up to the competition and during it.

"We put together a troupe that will be part of the show.  It's lead by Philippe Chartrand. He was one of the creators of the Cirque du Soleil O Show. Before that, he was a performer in many of the different Cirque du Soleil shows," said Kunitz.  "There's about ten other trainers that work with him.  They all come from similar backgrounds. And you will see them in the packages as they're training."

In addition, the experts will also join the participants on stage during their performances to create a "rich, multidimensional act," according to NBC.

"So when you see these acts, you will never see a celebrity out on stage alone. They will often be surrounded by either a partner or members of the troupe that will be enhancing the act," explained Kunitz.  "So everything we do is going to be a spectacle... We're putting on a show."

Knight agreed that Celebrity Circus is indeed a "spectacle," which is why he thinks it will resonate with viewers.

"It'll be filled with color and bigness and movement," he told Reality TV World.  "It'll be unlike anything that has really been staged in a reality competition or as a reality competition concept in the past."

Similar to the way Knight said participating in Celebrity Circus gave him an "intimate appreciation" for Cirque du Soleil, he thinks the reality series will make viewers realize anything is possible.

"The important part is they're not impossible. Because of the reality aspect of this they're not just watching a performance -- the net result of a lot of training that they never get to see," he explained.  "They get to actually journey with us, from the time that we first walked in the door and looked like the Bad News Bears."

The participants might not ever achieve professional status when it comes to circus acts, according to Knight, but they sure will improve.

"You see that," he continued.  We're just normal people attempting this in a very short amount of time. I think it could give people inspiration and that there's a real possibility for anybody out there if they have the privilege and the right training and so forth. They can do things that amaze themselves."

Both Knight and Kunitz were quick to discredit comparisons of Celebrity Circus to CBS's Secret Talents of the Stars -- which was canceled by the network after only one poorly-rated premiere broadcast in April.

"The two shows, if you put them side by side, will look nothing alike," said Kunitz. "I don't want to talk bad about another show, but what I would say about our show is that every act that we're doing we're putting on a real show in each act."

Knight said he expects Celebrity Circus to be more "interesting" for viewers than Secret Talents of the Stars.

"We're taking no particular talent in the circus, and actually owning it," he said.  "We're watching that development and we're telling that story. And then we're producing a show at the end that is spectacularly entertaining."

Knight is no stranger to starring in reality shows, and he said he always does them for "personal reasons."

"It can teach me about me. Surely, I think that can be appreciated with the circus and certainly my last exploration, getting married and meeting my wife in that certain circumstance," he said referring to America's Next Top Model winner Adrianne Curry, whom he met during filming for VH1's The Surreal Life in 2004 and wed at the conclusion of My Fair Brady's second season.

Curry, apparently, is not a big fan of Knight doing Celebrity Circus

"I go home. I eat and I go to sleep," said Knight of his routine.  "Adrianne's not thrilled about this choice of mine because it requires that much sleep. It requires that much focus."

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