Can Late Night Become Reality TV's Savior?

Monty Brinton/CBS
Anne Hathaway and James Corden battling on 'Drop the Mic'

Viral segments (such as James Corden's "Carpool Karaoke" and "Drop the Mic") are being launched into full series as a stale genre looks for a jump-start.

Coming soon: Mean Tweets, the show? It could happen. The Aug. 11 reveal that TBS is developing the singing competition series Drop the Mic, based on The Late Late Show With James Corden’s viral segment, is the latest example of unscripted TV’s newest and most promising pipeline: late-night shows.

Two weeks earlier, Late Late Show producer CBS TV Studios and Ben Winston’s Fulwell 73 sold Carpool Karaoke, another popular segment, as a show to Apple TV. “Late night has always been a proving ground for great ideas, and now enhanced by the digital exposure they’re getting, it’s no wonder that audiences want more,” says TBS/TNT senior vp unscripted Michael Bloom, who ordered 16 episodes of Drop the Mic, in which four celebrities engage in a rap battle (Corden will not host Drop the Mic or Carpool.)

Despite cannibalization fears, such shows are breathing new life into the reality genre, which has struggled to launch new hits And they’re adding a revenue stream for late-night shows The most successful test case is Spike’s Lip Sync Battle, hosted by Chrissy Teigen and LL Cool J, born on NBC’s The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. The series has an Emmy nom and record ratings for Spike, which is prepping a kids-centric spinoff as well as its own (unaffiliated) take on Corden’s Carpool bit, Caraoke Showdown. At ABC, reality chief Robert Mills used the “Who Knows ...?” segment from Jimmy Kimmel Live! as a backdoor pilot for a series titled Big Fan with host Andy Richter For Lip Sync EP Casey Patterson, the trend is welcome relief “It’s fresh, original material coming back into [reality TV]," she says, "versus old, relaunched formats."


Selena Gomez on James Corden's Carpool Karaoke

This story first appeared in the Aug. 26 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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