The World’s Best, a new variety show from CBS that will debut after the Super Bowl, may seem similar to NBC’s America’s Got Talent in that it features a wide swath of international talent vying for a top prize. But Mike Darnell, Fox’s former reality show guru-turned-executive producer on World’s Best, insists that his competition has something that NBC doesn’t: a twist called the Wall of the World.
In the show, 50 artists or “experts” from around the world, along with U.S. judges Drew Barrymore, Faith Hill, and Ru Paul, help to pick who among the contestants should advance to the next level of competition. Countries represented include Australia, Mexico, Sweden, Nigeria, Holland, Afghanistan, China, Denmark, Brazil, and Kazakhstan. “It adds this great element of drama and movement, and adds a global feel,” Darnell told reporters Wednesday at the annual Television Critics Tour in Pasadena, CA. “It feels fresh and new.”
After several rounds of competition, only one act will be awarded the title of “World’s Best” to win $1 million. The show will be hosted by James Corden.
Even when he was at Fox, Darnell said he was always looking for a way to go after America’s Got Talent. “It sort of stood alone. After Idol, What The Voice did was take a singing contest and added a game show element. When I was at Fox, I thought ‘there has gotta be room for one more variety show. What were our spinning chairs? It was the Wall of the World.”
“This is a big swing for me,” Darnell added of The World’s Best, which is a homegrown format that, if successful, can be pitched internationally. “Almost every format you have seen over the last 20 years of this size and scale came from Europe or someone else. This was created in America.”
Darnell also expressed optimism for the state of the unscripted genre. “The term reality covers this wide umbrella of variety shows and games and docu-series. The networks really count of it. It takes an enormous amount of hours. Without them, I don’t even know honestly if [broadcast TV] can exist. The reality genre is super healthy.”
In an interview with EW, Hill says the talent she’s seen has blown her away. “A gospel singer, a martial arts team and I witnessed a performance of something I have never seen in my life. There is some amazing talent that people are going to see.”
She adds, “We had a blast! Everyone is so immensely talented and we had a great time together… it was like summer camp but without the bug bites! James’ comedic timing is unparalleled and he is down to do almost anything for a laugh…ask him about the slack line. RuPaul can stop the show with his one-liners and he doesn’t mince words. Drew, with her amazing acting background, can relate to almost all of the competitors in one way or another. I learned a lot from all of them and they are the loveliest group of people I’ve had the pleasure of working with.”
The 10-episode series will premiere immediately following the Super Bowl on Sunday, Feb. 3 on CBS.