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Competitive reality shows continue to be all the rage on the small screen, where singers, ventriloquists, acrobats and more can regularly be seen vying for the top prize on a handful of primetime hits. CBS is poised to shake the TV subgenre up in a huge way with The World's Best, a talent show gone fully global. Executive producer and unscripted TV vet Mike Darnell spoke to the press at TCA about how the unprecedented format behind The World's Best made it a bigger challenge for everyone behind the scenes.
Almost every format you guys have seen over the last 20 years of this size and scale has come from Europe or somewhere else in the world. This is a homegrown format, created in America. . . . It was an enormous amount of work. When I did Idol for Fox, or X Factor, or you know, a myriad of other shows that have been done, they weren’t easy, but you had a template to look at. This is brand new, and it feels it, and it’s a huge swing, and I think you can see it feels appropriate after the Super Bowl. I am not embarrassed by the title. I think we did it.
Without getting too "inside baseball" here, Mike Darnell is making a big point. Look at some of the most popular reality competitions that are on TV at this point. NBC's The Voice can be sourced back to The Voice of Holland, which premiered in 2010. America's Got Talent, also on NBC, was the first of that franchise to make it to air, but the format was first developed for Britain's Got Talent. Fox's breakout smash The Masked Singer's mystery-driven format, meanwhile, began with a South Korean series of the same name.
The World's Best producers and developers didn't have any kind of previously existing blueprint to fall back on when figuring out how to lay things out. The show looks rather unlike anything else on TV, even with the caveat that it's in the same ballpark as America's Got Talent and other shows that aren't wholly focused on vocal performances.
A host and fixed set of judges – here, it's James Corden hosting, with RuPaul, Drew Barrymore and Faith Hill doing the judging – are familiar elements in any kind of reality competition. Those four appear to get involved with the various acts, however, as opposed to just sitting back and letting the acts play out by themselves. There's also that giant wall of artistic and athletic experts from around the world, which is quite an eye-catcher. Not to mention the wild variety of acts that'l be on display.
At the Television Critics Association's 2019 winter press tour, Mike Darnell took the stage with RuPaul and producers Alison Holloway and Ben Winston to get the word out on what to expect from The World's Best. As the trailer showed us, the show looks like it cost a pretty penny, and Darnell confirmed that CBS laid down a large financial footprint to allow for this big and extravagant series' creation.
Well, a lot of money goes into something like that. Sometimes we say, ‘It was expensive, and you can see it on the screen.’ You can see it on the screen. This is not a cheap show. CBS, to their credit, really stepped up to make it big. . . . To be frank, the sale of the show was based on a built concept, and then our designer made a sizzle that had animation. The animation looked amazing, and the actual set he built looked better. And it was that animation and that vision that I first showed to Ru, and I first showed to Ben, and I first showed to CBS, that sold the show.
Mike Darnell and the other producers were adamant about trying to convince everyone that The World's Best will stand apart from other reality shows, both those currently airing and those of years past. Darnell definitely believes this new show has what it takes to compete with everything else, even with all-star projects like America's Got Talent: Champions.
The fact that there is so much potential competition out there for a new format is telling about the state of television as a whole. Though ratings may not be as high overall as they've been in the past, reality TV has managed to stay above water no matter what's atop the zeitgeist. Here, Mike Darnell talked about why he doesn't think the reality genre is dying anytime soon.
Instead of where other genres are pretty well defined in comedy or drama, this is a big wide swath. So when one thing is not working, something else will sort of take off. I cannot tell you how many times in my career I’ve heard that reality is dying, it’s dead, it’s never coming back. And then it always comes back. So I think it’s super healthy. . . . I think Masked Singer is a good example of something new and different that caught the public’s attention.
Below, potential fans can check out the full-length trailer that was released during TCA.