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NBC's 'The Singing Bee' to debut July 10, be hosted by Joey Fatone

By Christopher Rocchio and Steve Rogers, 06/25/2007 

NBC has announced that The Singing Bee, a new reality competition series that will see how well contestants can accurately sing lyrics to popular songs in a karaoke-style showdown, will premiere Tuesday, July 10 at 9:30PM ET/PT and be hosted by fourth-season Dancing with the Stars runner-up Joey Fatone

NBC had previously announced The Singing Bee would air as part of its 2007-2008 primetime programming schedule, however that changed last Wednesday when Fox suddenly announced it would premiere Don't Forget the Lyrics!, a similar new Bee-like game show that will also feature contestants trying to win big bucks by correctly completing the verses of different songs, on Wednesday, July 11 at 9:30PM ET/PT. 

Hours after learning of Fox's announcement, NBC aired a Wednesday night commercial announcing that The Singing Bee would premiere June 10 -- one day earlier than Fox's Don't Forget the Lyrics!

"What's the phrase? We're mad as hell and not going to take it anymore," NBC president of program planning Vince Manze told the TV Week about the network's decision to -- despite just having signed Fatone to serve as the show's host and still not having shot its first episode -- accelerate The Singing Bee's premiere date. "At some point you say, 'That's enough, we're going to play that game.'"

This isn't the first time NBC and Fox raced to premiere shows with similar formats. 

In July 2004, NBC announced plans to move the debut of The Contender, a new Mark Burnett-created reality boxing show the network had ordered earlier that year, from midseason to November -- the exact same month that Fox was planning to debut The Next Great Champ, a The Contender knockoff that Fox had ordered after losing a bidding war for Burnett's series.  Fox countered NBC's move by moving its Champ knockoff even further up to a September 2004 debut and since The Contender couldn't be ready in time for a September premiere, The Next Great Champ ended up beating it to the airwaves.

While Manze told TV Week that NBC's decision to move-up The Singing Bee's debut was a result of NBC Universal's new co-chair Ben Silverman taking a more aggressive approach, Fox apparently isn't buying it.

"Fine, they beat us, let them have it," Preston Beckman, executive vice president for strategic program planning at Fox, told TV Week. "We've always planned [Don't Forget the Lyrics!] for summer. We've already shot episodes. If we wanted, we could put it on next week. If they think rushing a product to air one day before us is somehow outsmarting us, they're just f**king themselves."

Chris Coelen, the CEO of RDF USA, the production company that's producing Don't Forget the Lyrics!, told TV Week that although Fox ordered his company's show (then called Off The Charts) "a couple of weeks" after NBC put The Singing Bee into development in April, his version "was not inspired" by theirs.

"We have a unique, independently created show that we feel great about and that we pitched out to every network -- including NBC -- and had multiple offers on," Coelen told TV Week.  "Ultimately we made a deal with the partner we felt was best for the show."

Fox plans to premiere Don't Forget the Lyrics! with a special two-night debut while NBC will air a repeat broadcast of The Singing Bee's premiere episode on Wednesday, July 11 at 8:30PM ET/PT, the night after its debut.

The Singing Bee's July 10 premiere will follow a 90-minute America's Got Talent broadcast that will reveal which "Vegas Callbacks" acts will become the show's Top 20 second-season finalists.  The following night, NBC will air a half-hour episode of Most Outrageous Moments as a lead-in to its repeat broadcast of The Singing Bee's premiere.

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