CMT hopes 'Duet' reality show doubles the drama
By CINDY WATTS
When Bob Kusbit took over CMT's development department, he knew what he wanted: a competition show.
He got what he wanted with the record-setting success of John Rich's Gone Country, a series that pitted celebrities from outside country music against each other for a song on country radio. But Kusbit didn't stop there.
CMT plans to debut its latest reality competition series, Can You Duet, at 9:30 tonight after the broadcast of the 2008 CMT Music Awards. On Can You Duet, which is from the producers of American Idol, eight duos will compete over the 11-episode series for a recording contract with Sony BMG Nashville.
"Duets have a long, colorful history in country music," Kusbit said. "That was part of (why I liked this concept), and this was something that seemed to be rooted in country. The fact they are duets means they are more complicated — the stories behind their music, the way they get along or don't get along, how their styles blend."
Kusbit thinks those complexities will make for great television. And just to ensure it, the show added another element. Some duos were severed during tryouts with one partner staying and pairing with another singer while the other half went home. Judge Aimee Mayo said the tryouts were so action-packed that her husband and country singer Kellie Pickler couldn't tear themselves away from the action long enough to eat lunch.
"They stayed for four hours because of everybody that comes in there," she said. "On American Idol they sing and they're told yes or no and then they leave, but on this thing they're coming in there and . . . a lot of the people we would say yes to one and no to the other. Then all heck would break loose. A guy almost hit a cameraman. We said yes to his wife, and he seemed so laid back and then he just went nuts. We thought he was going to hit his wife. He left her there at the Wildhorse (where they were having auditions.) He was screaming at everybody and that's just one. It was just one thing after another."
A portion of the tryouts will be broadcast during the series. But Kusbit said the competition is just as dramatic and is enhanced by extra footage of the contestants' daily and backstage activities.
"We keep saying it's double the drama, double the music, double the talent and it's so true," he said. "There's just a lot of interesting things going on behind the scenes that you never get to see on American Idol, but on this show the way it's set up they get to see that."