You've seen them dance. You've seen them lose weight. You've even seen them ice-skate. Now it's time for celebrities to grab a mike and start singing. The contestants on Fox's Celebrity Duets will have a little help from well-known recording artists such as Clint Black, Macy Gray and Chaka Khan, so we're hoping the audience will be spared the torture of another William Hung. But with Simon Cowell wearing the executive-producer hat, anything is possible.
The show (premiering Aug. 29) is hosted by Wayne Brady and features eight celebrity "nonsingers" wrestling champion Chris Jericho, actress Lea Thompson, Queer Eye lifestyle expert Jai Rodriguez, Xena's Lucy Lawless, actor Cheech Marin, Olympian gymnast Carly Patterson, Fresh Prince's Alfonso Ribeiro and comedian Hal Sparks. The warbling wannabes will be competing for $100,000, to be donated to the winner's chosen charity. The contestants will pair up with a different professional vocalist each week a departure from the same coupling seen on other reality shows like Dancing with the Stars. "We thought that was more fun for the audience, rather than just seeing the same two people week after week," Cowell tells TVGuide.com. "One week, they could be with Gladys Knight and one week they could be with Patti LaBelle.... Part of the fun for the audience is that you won't know who the legendary singer is right away. The nonsinger will start and then 10 seconds later, out will walk the singer you recognize."
With harmony in jeopardy, the judges' comments will be critical, and even though you won't see Paula Abdul picking fights with hard-hitting Cowell, the panel should be just as entertaining as the singers. Renowned music producer David Foster, rock 'n' roller Little Richard and country star Marie Osmond who was confirmed as the third judge just before the first episode are sure to disagree. "I am genuinely interested in Little Richard for some reason, and I think it's going to be quite an interesting dynamic between him and David, because David is very serious," says Cowell. "Little Richard is probably a bit more unpredictable, so who knows what could happen?"
Cowell says there were a lot of stars interested in participating some who approached the show's producers and others who were recruited. "There are so many celebrities who wanted to come on this show who genuinely couldn't sing a note," he says. Now, that's something we can compare to Idol. Other elements that will seem familiar: Idol musical director Rickey Minor will coach the contestants, who will have control over song selection. And, of course, the American public will vote to keep their favorites on the show (with the exception of the first episode, when the judges will do the eliminating).
But Cowell believes the celebrities might be working for more than just America's votes. "I would like to think that at the end of this show, somebody is able to launch a successful recording career. Because no matter what they tell you, my hunch is that they all believe it could happen."