The WB to premiere new 'American Idol'-like hoax series on May 17
By Reality TV World staff, 04/19/2004
The WB Network and producer Mike Fleiss have announced that they have teamed together to create a new American Idol-like singing competition -- only instead of rewarding the program's best singer, unbeknownst to the Idol wannabes, the judges in the Joe Schmo-like parody series will actually be seeking to crown America's worst singer.
Filmed in secret during the past few weeks, the seven-episode Superstar USA series will premiere on Monday, May 17 and be hosted by by former MTV vee-jay Brian McFayden. The program's unsuspecting contestant hopefuls participated in open auditions held in Las Vegas, Philadelphia, Miami and Minneapolis with the belief that they were trying out for a new Idol-like reality singing competition. In truth, the competition was all one giant hoax -- with the joke being on the participants -- and the program's true goal was to parody the reality talent competition genre and reward the worst singer with a William Hung-like $100,000 talent and recording deal.
"This is a genre that is ripe for parody," said Jordan Levin, CEO of The WB. "Back when we first introduced this type of show to an American audience with Popstars, we found that the most memorable and relatable contestants were the people who had perhaps more courage than talent. Their passion to become superstars shone through. In this series, the viewing audience will be rewarded with a fun, funny and entertaining send-up of the genre, but in the end, you'll be won over by our Superstar."
"When I did Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire, ratings sky-rocketed because people couldn't believe what they were seeing," explained executive producer Mike Fleiss. "This show will certainly strike a whole new chord with audiences and is sure to get people talking. The fact that we are able to perpetrate a hoax of this magnitude with thousands of people for more than a month is absolutely incredible."
During Superstar USA's initial auditions, the best singers were told that they weren't right for the show, while those who had more guts than pipes received positive comments from rap music pioneer Tone-Loc, pop star Vitamin C and television producer Chris Briggs, show's "panelists" (for some reason The WB doesn't want to call them judges.)
Ultimately, twelve "uniquely gifted" performers were whisked away to Hollywood, where they received superstar treatment, complete with a makeover, dance sessions with a top choreographer and singing lessons with a respected voice coach. The show's finale was played out in front of a live audience, where the last one standing was given the title of "The WB's Superstar USA," along with the talent and recording deal and cash.
"These people believe they're the next pop superstar, even though they're horrible singers," Fleiss joked to Daily Variety. "It's not funny seeing bad singers doing karaoke. This is about people who are clearly delusional and watching them butcher song after song." "I swear, the finale is the most incredible 20 minutes of television I've ever seen," he added. "People will be calling their friends saying, 'You won't believe what they're doing.'"
For his part, Levin feels that Superstar USA can become the big unscripted hit series that The WB been seeking for some time but as of yet failed to uncover via previous reality efforts such as High School Reunion and The Surreal Life (the later of which recently moved to the VH1 cable channel.)
"We can make some noise with this and have some fun with the form," he explained to Variety. "We have a young audience that's very literate and very savvy when it comes to this genre. The idea of deconstructing and twisting it was appealing to us." "The timing of this is certainly right," said Levin. "As the nation contemplates who's the next American Idol, we're really questioning issues of celebrity and talent. And we're having fun."
Like American Idol, the hour-long Superstar USA will air twice weekly, Monday and Tuesdays at 9PM ET/PT.
Assuming Superstar is a hit, also Fleiss hopes to steal one last page from Idol's playbook -- by taking the twelve finalists out on tour (where, we can only guess) and releasing a group album (hey, it worked for William Hung.)
Created by executive producer Fleiss, Superstar USA is co-executive produced by Mike Nichols and Jason Carbone and produced by Next Entertainment in association with Telepictures Productions.