'Celebrity' fever hits Hollywood

The circus is coming to Hollywood, with NBC closing a deal for Endemol USA’s hit format “Celebrity Circus” — and ABC eyeing a souped-up revival of 1980s fave “Circus of the Stars.”

Both CBS and Fox have also expressed interest in the celeb circus format. With at least two more formats in the marketplace, it’s possible other webs could soon be under the big top as well.

After a fierce bidding war with at least one other network, ABC is in serious negotiations to land the new “Circus of the Stars.” Michael Dempsey, a rising awards show producer whose credits include MTV’s Video Music Awards, will exec produce, along with original exec producer Bunny Stivers.

NBC, meanwhile, has greenlit at least six episodes of “Celebrity Circus,” which is based on a year-old Endemol format that’s been a hit in Portugal and Argentina. It will air this summer as part of the Peacock’s year-round programming strategy.

Peacock reality supremo Craig Plestis, currently enjoying success with “American Gladiators,” said “Circus” would be just as loud and noisy as NBC’s winter hit.

“When people are switching around their TV channels, they’re going to stick to this like flypaper,” Plestis told Daily Variety. “It’s going to be a very fresh perspective on a performance show.”

“Circus” will be a competition-based skein in which celebs will vie to be crowned the best of the big top. Endemol topper David Goldberg — whose NBC gameshow “Deal or No Deal” has been doing boffo ratings in recent weeks — said the celebs would train and perform in a real circus.

“It won’t be shot against a fabricated backdrop,” he said. “It will take you into the craziness of the real thing.”

He said celebs will be judged by their new circus peers — meaning the panel of judges could included the bearded lady or a clown.

Revival of “Circus of the Stars,” packaged by CAA, is also expected to be a competition, with the same sort of can-they-do-it? drama as ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars.” Both the NBC skein and ABC’s possible show will feature more modern Cirque du Soleil-style stunts.

Plestis agreed that his “Circus” also shared some DNA with “Dancing” –but it will be on a grander scale.

“It’s bigger, bolder and more death-defying,” he said. “You can break a nail doing that show. You can break a leg on ours.”

It’s probably no coincidence that ABC and NBC are both moving forward with circus shows at the same time, though the timeline of events is open to interpretation.

Peacock execs met with reps for “Circus of the Stars” last month but never made a bid on the project. Announcement of the Endemol deal comes just as ABC is closing in on the show.

But Plestis noted that he and boss Ben Silverman have been talking about a circus revival for months. “This has been part of our gameplan for a while,” he said.

Goldberg, meanwhile, said he brought the idea of “Celebrity Circus” to NBC execs “a while ago” and noted that his format has been around for at least a year.

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