Stars and Amateurs Team Up in Duets, the Latest American Idol Wannabe

Will this new singing competition shine, or will Duets suffer from Idol-fatigue?

Credit: ABC

Kelly Clarkson will be perform double-duty on Duets: both performing and judging

New singing comp Duets pairs celebrity superstar singers with amatuers looking for a big break

Every network wishes it had its own American Idol, but, like the Highlander, there can be only one. 

Sure, Fox’s competitors have launched their own talent shows over the years, but most have failed miserably when it came to putting a fresh spin on a format that essentially consists of non-famous people singing and more-famous people judging them. 

While The Voice managed to pull this off by turning the judges’ chairs away from the stage and borrowing The X Factor’s shtick of having the judges serve as mentors, ABC is hoping the twist it’s cooked up for its new singing show will set it apart from the pack. 

The gimmick is right there in the title: Duets. Contestants will sing and be judged in the standard fashion; at a certain point, the worthiest singers will be selected to perform duets with the show’s in-house “Superstars” — American Idol champ Kelly Clarkson, singer-songwriter Robin Thicke, Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles and R&B star John Legend, who was brought in as a last-minute replacement after Lionel Richie mysteriously dropped out less than a month before the show’s premiere. 

Hosted by somebody named Quddus — don’t worry, I have no idea who he or she is either — Duets will ultimately allow each “Superstar” (the show’s terminology, not mine) to choose two singers as duet partners, and these teams will perform in front of a live studio audience until one pair is ultimately chosen as the winner. The victorious contestant will then be signed to a recording contract. 

In the past, these types of shows have brought in washed-up, past-their-prime celebs as judges, but The Voice has set the bar that much higher by loading its judging panel with relevant, current hit-makers. Based on the pedigree of the talent, Duets is following that show’s lead.

On paper Duets sounds pretty good, but summertime singing shows have traditionally had a tough time attracting Idol-fatigued viewers; once Idol and The Voice conclude, does anyone really want to jump right into another singing contest? 

Time and the Nielsen ratings will tell whether Duets becomes the next big thing or shares the fate of ABC’s last summer vocal competition: The One: Making a Music Star, a co-venture with the CBC that was hosted by George Stroumboulopoulos — and cancelled after only two weeks.

Deuts premieres on Thursday, May 24 at 8 pm on ABC.

Originally published in TVW. For daily programming updates and on-screen Entertainment news, subscribe to the free TVW e-newsletters, or purchase a subscription to the weekly magazine.