USA Networks announced Tuesday that the second edition of its reality-talent show Nashville Star will begin airing on March 6, 2004, in the same Saturday night at 10 PM (ET/PT) time slot (which, to put it politely, is not a desirable slot).

A full list of the scheduled auditions, which began in Nashville on October 22, can be found on the Nashville Star Web site. In addition, audition videotapes will be accepted until December 1.

Nancy O'Dell, co-anchor of the nationally syndicated entertainment news program Access Hollywood, returns to Nashville Star for the second season as host. O'Dell said: "Having grown up in South Carolina, I have always been a fan of country music and was honored to be a part of the discovery of the immensely talented Buddy Jewell. I can't wait to see the new talent who will be discovered this year."

In its first season, Nashville Star featured live performances by twelve finalists, who were judged by industry professionals and the television viewing audience as they competed for a recording contract with Sony Music Nashville. The finalists lived together in a house on Music Row in Nashville, and the show was broadcast live from Nashville's BellSouth Acuff Theatre. The second season will follow the same format, except that only ten finalists will be selected from a group of twenty who will perform during the premiere episode. The panel of judges will select nine, with the television viewing audience voting to determine the tenth finalist.

The first Nashville Star launched the career of Sony Music artist Buddy Jewell, who is nominated for the Horizon Award at this year's "Country Music Association Awards." His debut CD, Buddy Jewell, was produced by Clint Black and entered the Billboard Country Albums chart at #1. His debut single, "Help Pour Out the Rain (Lacey's Song)," was a Top-5 hit on the Billboard country airplay chart, after making the highest charting debut by a solo country artist in over a decade (since the introduction of the Nielsen SoundScan system in January 1990).

The group of twenty competing for the ten finalist slots will be selected following local auditions in 25 cities across the country through mid-December, as well as four regional competitions that will take place in January. Cities where local auditions will take place are: Atlanta, GA; Austin, TX; Birmingham, AL; Cleveland, OH; Dallas, TX; Denver, CO; Grand Rapids, MI; Greensboro, NC; Greenville, SC; Hartford, CT; Houston, TX; Jacksonville, FL; Las Vegas, NV; Lexington, KY; Little Rock, AR; Los Angeles, CA; Minneapolis, MN; Nashville, TN; Oklahoma City, OK; Philadelphia, PA; Phoenix, AZ; Seattle, WA; St. Louis, MO; Tampa, FL; and Washington, DC. For details on rules, and eligibility, visit the Nashville Star web site.

A regular feature of each episode of Nashville Star will be the "Hot Spot" segment, during which finalists will be asked to rise to a new challenge, one that they would be likely to encounter as a professional recording artist. One example from the first season was when five of the finalists sang the National Anthem at a NASCAR race.

Nashville Star is created by Reveille, run by Ben Silverman (The Restaurant, Coupling) and executive producer H.T. Owens (The Restaurant, Nashville Star). George Verschoor and his production company, Hoosick Falls Productions, are executive producing in association with Reveille. The show is produced by Jon Small (Garth Brooks Live From Central Park, Billy Joel Live at Yankee Stadium) and his production company, Picture Vision.

A major change that will be coming to the show, according to the (Nashville) Tennessean, is that only one of last season's three judges is expected to return. Sony Music A&R executive Tracy Gershon (sister of actress Gina Gershon) is expected to be back. However, both musician Charlie Robison and critic Robert K. Oermann have opted to leave Nashville Star.

Robison, the husband of controversial Dixie Chick leftist Emily Robison, who recently called California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger clueless and his candidacy "absolutely insane," issued a statement saying that career and family considerations caused him not to return. We have a sneaking suspicion that those considerations may involve removing certain feet from mouths ... or, perhaps, avoiding the backlash from the Chicks' continuing political rants.

By contrast, Oermann seems to be leaving for more mundane reasons. Another change is that Clint Black will not return as the "mentor" for the contestants. However, a number of other country stars are expected to participate in the show, as also happened in the first season.