Fox planning 'Celebrity Idol' spinoff of 'American Idol'
By Reality TV World staff, 06/23/2005
Although a deal has reportedly yet to be formally signed, Fox has revealed plans to team with American Idol producers FremantleMedia and 19 Entertainment to create Celebrity Idol, a celebrity spinoff of its smash-hit reality talent competition.
According to Daily Variety, Mike Darnell, the network's reality programming chief, told the paper that Celebrity Idol will feature ten "well-known faces" competing for charity, with the winner's charity receiving a $1,000,000 donation.
Scheduled as "event" programming, Celebrity Idol would air its ten episode run over the course of two or three weeks. While Fox hasn't yet set a premiere date, Darnell told Variety that Celebrity Idol would likely air "sooner rather than later," prompting speculation that the network will air the series during the November ratings sweep period that will follow its broadcast of the 2005 Major League Baseball World Series.
While American Idol's production team Simon Fuller, Nigel Lythgoe, Cecile Frot-Coutaz and Ken Warwick are reportedly all set to also produce the Celebrity Idol spinoff, the participation of host Ryan Seacrest and judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson apparently remains uncertain, with Darnell stating only that "our hope [is] that the judges and Ryan will do the show."
As for the identities of the celebrities who will be competing, the network doesn't appear to gotten commitments from anyone as of yet, but similar to his comments about Fox's upcoming Skating With Celebrities series, Darnell told the trade paper that "we're going to go for the biggest talent possible." Promising an "open policy" toward casting, Darnell added that "we're looking for people who can sing but aren't known for singing,"
As part of the Fox's plan to make Celebrity Idol feel "completely disconnected from American Idol," the celebrity series will not feature any auditions, nor will it have a standalone results show broadcast. Assuming Idol's judges participate, it's presumed that they would still comment on the performers (although given the charitable nature of the program, perhaps some of Simon's harshest feedback would be inappropriate) and home viewers would still determine who advances via their telephone voting, however with no standalone results show, the identity of the eliminated performer would simply be revealed during the next evening's broadcast.
"It's all being done for fun and charity. We want the celebrities to have a ball with it," explained Darnell.
Assuming the show succeeds, Fox -- which for the last several seasons, has struggled to draw viewers in between when its Major League Baseball playoff broadcasts end in late October and American Idol relaunches in mid-January -- hopes to make the series an annual event. "Because it's being scheduled this way, we hope it becomes more of a special, hopefully one that is an annual event," Darnell told Variety.
Despite Celebrity Idol's resemblance to the I'm a Celebrity but I Want to Be a Pop Star reality project that NBC announced just last week, Darnell insists that not only has the idea for a celebrity Idol edition been under consideration for several years, but the project has now been in active development "for several months." So far there's no word as to what impact the entry of Fox's Idol juggernaut into the space might have on NBC's I'm a Celebrity but I Want to Be a Pop Star, however it is presumed that it will force the Peacock Network to further accelerate its own already fast tracked project.