CBS’ new talent competition series The World’s Best is reality TV guru Mike Darnell’s response to NBC’s America’s Got Talent, he says.
“When I was working at Fox, we did American Idol and a lot of singing shows came along,” Darnell told TV critics at TCA. The most successful, NBC’s The Voice added a “game show element: spinning chairs,” Darnell explained.
Meanwhile, America’s Got Talent stood alone and nobody challenged it,” Darnell said. So, now at Warner Bros, Darnell set his sights on challenging AGT, and looked for its “vulnerability,” asking “What is their spinning chairs.”
The World’s Best, a rare homegrown format came up with “Wall of the Worlds” — 39 judges from other countries who help determine competitors’ fate in addition to the show’s three American judges: RuPaul Charles, Drew Barrymore and Faith Hill.
“It’s a competitive industry and no one is more competitive than NBC. That’s why they have America’s Got Talent: The Champions on. That was a direct shot at us,” Darnell claimed.
“That’s okay; we’re ready for the challenge,” he added. “We’ve got the next new spin on the variety show.”
In addition to the international judges, “we’ve got an unbelievable host in James Corden,” added EP Ben Winston, who also co-EP’s Corden’s CBS late-night show.
The World’s Best “allows him to “spread his wings” in primetime and adds to the variety show genre a host who is highly involved in the performing on stage “in an entertainment way,” Winston said of Corden.
Additionally, there will be no bad acts in the early judging of The World’s Best, Winston promised.
“One of the things we were all okay with 15 years ago is people coming on who weren’t very talented, and we got a little bit of a laugh at them,” Winston said of competition reality series.
“In this culture, I don’t think that’s suitable any more,” he asserted. “Everybody is at top of their game… Nobody is being laughed at.”
Darnell, a senior statesman of American reality TV, got asked the inevitable question about the current state of the genre.
“I think the genre is healthy,” Darnell crowed, noting his career has spanned many times reality TV was said to be dying or dead.
“It’s super healthy,” he continued. “The networks particularly really count on it. It takes up an enormous amount of hours” and, in success, performs well in Live + Same Day ratings “which is super important on an advertiser level,” he reminded.
“A reality show can fill far more hours of a network’s schedule than a scripted series, Darnell added. “Where a typical scripted show takes up 20 hours, The Voice is 97 hours a year. It takes up an enormous amount of space and it’s healthy.”
“It feels appropriate after the Super Bowl,” Darnell beamed at TCA. “I’m not embarrassed by the [show’s] title. I think we did it!”
The World’s Best hails from reality TV heavyweights Mark Burnett (Survivor, The Voice) and Darnell (American Idol, Ellen’s Game of Games).