CBS has won a bidding war to find a new lead singer for a rock band that mattered in the 1980s.
According to trade paper reports, there was a heated battle among ABC, NBC and CBS for this project to find a frontman for INXS, an Australian group that hasn't had a lead singer since the last century.
The bidding war, we assume, is based largely on the fact that the new reality series is being executive-produced by Mark Burnett, who is a genius in the genre, unless you count "The Casino," "The Restaurant" and "Combat Missions." Oh, and "Boarding House: North Shore."
The winner, CBS said in yesterday's announcement, will be "the next great rock star."
Contestants will be sought from around the United States and Canada, as well as in Sydney, London and Tokyo. Those making the cut will shack up in a house in the Hollywood Hills. Each week, the pool will be thinned in a process that will include input from viewers, judges and the remaining INXS band members. The winner will embark on a worldwide concert tour with the band and be part of the group's next album.
INXS was formed in Sydney in the late '70s, when "Laverne & Shirley" and "Happy Days" were the most popular shows on U.S. television.
When the group put out its first album in the United States, in 1983, CBS's "60 Minutes" was the No. 1 rated program on television, followed by "Dallas." NBC's only Top 10 series was "The A-Team."
INXS's biggest-selling album, "Kick," was a hit in '88, by which time NBC's "Cosby" was No. 1, but "60 Minutes" was still CBS's highest-rated program.
CBS noted that the group has sold 30 million albums; only 3.7 million of that 30 million sold in the past 13 years, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
"Best of INXS," released two years ago, sold just 96,000 copies. The group's last studio album, released in '97, fell off the album sales charts less than two months after its release, Variety reported that year.
"Rock stars offer rich material for the reality TV world," Burnett said in yesterday's announcement, calling them "colorful personalities."
The new series marks Burnett's first reality TV project for CBS since "Survivor." Since that show put him on the map (he executive produced "Eco-Challenge" for USA network before that), Burnett has done the aforementioned "Casino" for Fox, and "The Restaurant" for NBC, the short-lived "Boarding House" for WB, "Combat Missions" for USA and, his most successful series since "Survivor," "The Apprentice" for NBC.
Burnett and DreamWorks TV recently sold to NBC a boxing reality series called "The Contender." That project also was considered such a hot commodity that Burnett reportedly sought and got ad time in the series, which he can sell.
In noting his decision to get back in bed with CBS, Burnett noted all the lovely synergistic possibilities, given that CBS is owned by Viacom, which owns Infinity Radio as well as cable networks MTV and VH1.
INXS's lead singer, Michael Hutchence, died in 1997. According to his lover and mother of his child, he died during a solo sex act known as autoerotic asphyxiation. Authorities, however, ruled it a suicide. Anyway, he was found hanging naked from a door in the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Sydney, according to news reports. CBS did not mention this in yesterday's announcement -- that's just a little too much reality for TV.