TLC, like INXS, seek new singer via reality TV -- As on CBS' upcoming show seeking the next Michael Hutchence, Fox will help Chilli and T-Boz audition a replacement for Left Eye

By Gary Susman
Updated June 25, 2004 at 04:00 AM EDT
Credit: TLC: Erik S. Lesser/AP

”You cannot replace a TLC girl. You can’t do it.” That’s what Rozonda ”Chilli” Thomas told in September 2002, six months after the death of fellow TLC-er Lisa ”Left Eye” Lopes in a car accident. But Chilli and Tionne ”T-Boz” Watkins have apparently changed their tune. The Los Angeles Times reports that the two surviving members of the R&B trio will audition a replacement for Left Eye via a reality show being produced by Fox Television Studios. A source close to the talks between the studio and the band confirmed to that a show is in the works that will find TLC a new vocalist, though the source said that it’s premature to say whether the new singer would tour or record with the band beyond the scope of the show.

If the premise sounds familiar, it’s because reality guru Mark Burnett (”Survivor,” ”The Apprentice”) announced this week that CBS will air a similar show next summer, called ”Rock Star,” that will find a singer for INXS to replace Michael Hutchence, who killed himself in 1997. Fox Television Studios, a sister company to the Fox broadcast network, has yet to announce a network or an airdate for the TLC show, but it could be yet another bone of contention between Burnett and the Fox companies. He has tussled with the Fox network over the editing of his new summer series, ”The Casino.” And he’s grumbled that two of Fox’s forthcoming shows, one featuring Virgin tycoon Richard Branson and another featuring a boxing elimination competition, are knockoffs of Burnett’s NBC shows, the Donald Trump-centered ”Apprentice” and the upcoming Sylvester Stallone coproduction ”The Contender.”

”It just makes me laugh,” Burnett said to the Times when asked about the TLC show. On the other hand, his ”Rock Star” owes at least a small debt to Fox’s ”American Idol.” Also, the TLC show has been in the works for several months, said’s source, who declined to offer specific details about the show’s premise. After all, some other show might copy the ideas.