In this technologically advanced age, could you handle being trapped behind a 20-foot wall without contact to the outside world? Well, eight families in a Kennesaw, Ga., neighborhood are attempting to do that in CBS' new reality series There Goes the Neighborhood (Sundays, 9/8c), which pits the clans against each other in a variety of challenges for a $250,000 prize. "It gets really dramatic because a quarter of a million dollars in Kennesaw is probably like $1.5 million in New York," host and American Idol alum Matt Rogers tells TVGuide.com. "So some of them take it personally, but that's what makes it great." Find out what's in store on this closed-off block party and get Rogers' thoughts on Paula Abdul's Idol exit.
TVGuide.com: The families are cut off from society basically and are living behind a wall. Could you ever do that?
I have a wife, a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old. I love them to death and we have our family time. But the flip side of that is, 'OK, family time's over. Daddy and mommy need to talk or do bills or get together or whatever, so you go watch Baby Einstein, you go play with your toys.' If I didn't have that, I would go out of my mind! Right now, I'm driving and the only reason my boys are being quiet is because they're watching Cars on the DVD player.
TVGuide.com: How did the families cope? I'm guessing the money for the winner was a nice distraction.
Some of them were like, "You know, we had a really, really bad day today. This wall freakin' sucks." But another time, they're like, "This wall is so cool. It's bringing us together as a family. It's forcing us to deal with our problems. It was really nice to be with our family today." So you have good days and bad days. Would I want to live behind a wall? No.
TVGuide.com: How did you find this neighborhood?
There were about 85 different neighborhoods. They put out this whole cattle call. The casting did a good job of finding the most diverse neighborhood that was actually close. They've known each other all the way from seven up to 20 years. You have a biracial couple, a lesbian couple, a big ol' overweight dad. I get along with my next-door neighbor, but the other one, I can't stand. Another neighbor four houses down, I always think he's up to something shady. So if you built a wall around my neighborhood, I wouldn't care about any of them. [These people] genuinely care about each other and that's why it's so tough. If we put together a bunch of people who didn't know or care about each other, you'd have Survivor behind a wall.
TVGuide.com: Since they're close, it's going to be harder for them to turn on each other, right? It is every family for itself.
Some families get closer than others. They end up calling it The Core. As the game goes on, The Core starts to split up and it gets freakin' intense. You have grown men looking at each other crying, saying, "How could you do this to me and my family? We played football together. Our boys are on the same baseball team. We coach the girls' soccer team. I guess money means more than friends." It's real and dramatic. You start to see the kids really have some fun, see some get upset — obviously not the 3-year-olds. No one wants to see a 3-year-old cry! [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: What can you tell us about the winning family?
The family that's going to win is the least expected. The way the ultimate winner is decided, no show has ever done it before. We don't want to be like Big Brother or like Survivor, so it's like, "What else can we do?" And this is it.
TVGuide.com: You've done a lot of hosting since your American Idol days. Is this something you had always wanted to do?
When I got voted off American Idol, I was sitting next to Jennifer Hudson, Fantasia, Diana DeGarmo and everyone's like, "I want to cut an album." Well, if I'm going to sit there and say I'm going to cut an album, I'm not going to compete with Jennifer Hudson or Fantasia! I've got to go with what works. I want my own TV show, I want to host TV shows and I eventually want my own sitcom. American Idol did a good job of opening the door and putting me in front of the right people — people that would've taken me years and years to develop relationships with had I not been on the show. At the end of the day, I still had to audition and do the work and get the job.
TVGuide.com: What are your thoughts on Paula's departure?
I was sad, dude. I like Paula. She was always cool by me. She always found the positive in things. She will be missed, but rumor has it she'll be on So You Think You Can Dance or Dancing with the Stars or whatever.
TVGuide.com: Or you can do a show together.
[Laughs] We'll call it Cry Me a River since all these families are crying. Or we'll build a wall around Paula's neighborhood and see who votes her off first.