“Carpool Karaoke” started as a bit “Late Late Show” host James Corden translated from Britain’s Comic Relief fundraiser in 2011. In the intervening half-decade, the bit has become a behemoth, leading to an expansion into a half-hour standalone series that will run exclusively on Apple Music.
Apple Music’s “Carpool Karaoke” doesn’t have a release date yet, but it will consist of 16 half-hours, executive producers Eric Pankowski, Ben Winston, and Corden revealed Monday morning at the TCA winter press tour.
Furthermore, the series won’t have a single host in the drivers’ seat. Instead, the trio conceived of a format that is more of an interview series than longer versions of the “Late Late Show” bit, with a different “host” for every episode.
“We’re really excited about the pairings we’re putting together,” Corden said. Those pairings include more traditional musical choices like John Legend with Alicia Keys and Seth MacFarlane with Ariana Grande, but also more outside-the-box choices like Billy Eichner in the passenger seat, surrounded by the band Metallica, or former NFL star and talk show host Michael Strahan with NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.
“What James does is so special and singular, it was silly, as we figured out how to make a full series, to try and replicate that,” Winston said.
(Spike TV is days away from debuting its vaguely similarly premised “Caraoke Showdown,” though Corden and company didn’t comment on that series other than a simple, “I haven’t seen it.”)
The idea to go outside the usual musical pairings came from the immense demand from non-musical stars clamoring to appear in the car with Corden. “We wouldn’t do Will Smith on [‘Late Late Show’],” Winston said. “So many people have been getting in touch with us, big movie stars, and we’re like, ‘that’s not really for us,’ but here with Apple Music it’s perfect.”
The series will be Apple Music’s first. “We thought about places to go with it, but we’d also heard Apple wanted to get into the video business, and because of the show and its celebration of music, we went to them,” Pankowski said. “They grabbed it with both hands right off the jump.”
The bit that serves as the kernel of the series isn’t going anywhere; Corden will continue to do Carpool Karaoke on the show. “When you’re putting together a talk show you’re searching for the things that will define your show,” Corden said. “Next thing you know hundreds of millions of people are watching it.”
At the same time, Corden is aware that the bit is best used sparingly. “We can only do it so many times,” he said. “We’ve done 300 shows and we’ve done it, what, 23 times?”
Apple Music’s snapping up of “Carpool Karaoke” was just the first franchising of Corden’s bits; Corden also has a series in development at TBS based on his “Drop the Mic” segment.
“To have two bits on your show that work outside the bubble of your television set is wonderful — to have two work to be their own show is something I feel very proud of,” Corden said.
The changing nature of late-night TV has been a big boon to the way these particular producers think. “We’ve got a huge advantage in this day and age called YouTube,” Winston said. “This is really resonating with our viewers. You can make a show for any time of the day. You wake up to 10 million having watched it online.”