NBC signing singing stars

Celebs wooed to crooning competish

HOLLYWOOD — Network TV’s summer romance with celebs continues with word that NBC and Granada America are teaming up for a star-filled singing competish.

Peacock is fast-tracking production on the tentatively titled “I’m a Celebrity but I Want to Be a Pop Star,” a multiweek talent skein in which well-known faces from TV, film and sports will get the chance to transform themselves into singing stars.

Casting is already under way, and a summer premiere isn’t out of the question, according to NBC alternative programming senior VP Craig Plestis.

Granada’s Paul Jackson and Curt Northrup will exec produce.

Greenlight for “I Want to Be a Pop Star” follows the summer success of ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” and Fox’s decision last week to move forward with “Skating With Celebrities.”

According to Plestis, the idea of a celeb singing competish has “been on the radar for us” for about two years, since the net’s short-lived “The Search for America’s Most Talented Kids.” In recent weeks, Granada began pitching a U.S. version of its upcoming U.K. skein “Soap Star/Superstar,” in which cast members from Brit sudsers get the pop star makeover.

Two pitches in one

Plestis was happy with the performance of Granada’s NBC skein “Hit Me Baby One More Time” and decided it made sense to combine the NBC and Granada ideas into one show. “It was the right timing for everyone,” he said.

Because the project has come together so quickly, a number of key decisions about the format have yet to be finalized, including just how many celebs will take part and how the elimination process will be conducted.

What is known, Jackson said, is that celebs will be put through a training program to hone their vocal and dance skills. Skein will show some of the training, but “the real emphasis will be on the musical performances,” he said.

Jackson and Plestis noted many actors have had some musical training, especially those with roots in the theater. Other participants could be familiar faces who’ve harbored dreams of belting out a big musical number onstage.

“It would be great to have some huge quarterback come out in a tuxedo and do a Frank Sinatra song,” Jackson said.

Voting method TBD

Viewers will determine the winner, but it’s not clear yet whether the show will use a phone vote (like Fox’s “American Idol”) or a studio-audience vote (like “Hit Me”). Former method seems more likely; if so, there’s a good chance “Pop Star” could air more than once a week, with one show devoted to results.

Plestis said he’ll be “going after A-level stars, B stars, all stars,” while Jackson said producers are looking for anyone famous “who’s got that secret ambition to be a rock star.”

The success of “Dancing With the Stars” has inspired a flurry of celeb-driven pitches in recent weeks, according to network reality execs. Several more skeins in the genre are expected to get picked up in the coming weeks.

In addition to “Hit Me Baby,” ICM-repped Granada has found success this summer with the Fox reality skein “Hell’s Kitchen,” which has shown growth in young adult viewers every week it’s aired.

Granada also produces “Nanny 911” and “Celebrity Fit Club.”

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