The WB's Anti-"Idol"

4/15/04 - By Josh Grossberg

Omigod, what hath William Hung wrought?

The tuneless American Idol wonder, who has parlayed his amazingly awful performance of "She Bangs" into a full-time career (including the high-charting album, Inspiration), has apparently inspired the WB.

The Frog net, looking to spoof Fox's mega-popular talent contest, has recruited Bachelor/Bachelorette mastermind Mike Fleiss to launch Superstar USA, a competition showcasing the worst American musical talent, Daily Variety reports.

Instead of rewarding performing prowess, Superstar takes its skewed cue from such reality predecessors as Joe Millionaire, Average Joe and My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiancé, with the joke being on the contestants.

"These people believe they're the next pop superstar, even though they're horrible singers," Fleiss tells Variety. "It's not funny seeing bad singers doing karaoke. This is about people who are clearly delusional and watching them butcher song after song."

Earplugs, presumably, are not included.

Like Idol,Superstar features a panel of three judges--rapper Tone-Loc, popster Vitamin C and the prickly Chris Briggs serving as the show's version of Simon Cowell (Briggs is also one of its producers).

But unlike Idol's judges, these three mock the vocally gifted while Paula Abduling the truly tune-challenged. The judges will do so with straight faces, since the idea is that the show is more of a joke than talent contest.

The first two episodes capture a cattle call of crooners lining up for open auditions in Las Vegas, Philadelphia, Miami and Minneapolis, Minnesota. Judges intend to whittle the ranks down to 12 aspiring superstars, give those 12 a full fashion makeover, not to mention--wink, wink--a stable of adoring fake fans who swoon before the wannabe's every move.

Eventually, the last man standing (i.e., the worst of the worst) wins the faux title of Superstar USA. And to make up for all the embarrassment of being, pardon the pun, Hung out to dry, the winner will receive a grand prize worth $100,000 and a recording deal.

Fleiss calls the concept a "bizarro version of American Idol."

The WB is hoping that Superstar becomes a watercooler-worthy reality success, unlike the tepid reaction to the network's previous efforts like The Surreal Life and High School Reunion.

And for all those naysayers out there who say TV has gotten just plain mean, Fleiss begs to differ.

"These are people who believe in themselves unconditionally, who wouldn't let anything stop them from pursuing their dream--even the lack of a singing voice," he said. "They do get the fame and fortune, it's just not how they thought."

Superstar, which finished a fast four-week shoot on Tuesday night, is set to premiere on the Frog network May 17 at 9 p.m., and then air twice each week, on Mondays and Tuesdays. Former MTV veejay Brian McFayden has been tapped to emcee.

The series finale is scheduled for June.