Carrie Underwood headlines Fox variety show

Special will include Dolly Parton, David Cook, comedy bits

Country star Carrie Underwood is returning to Fox, the network that catapulted her to stardom with "American idol," to headline a variety special executive produced by "Idol" creator Simon Fuller.

Adam Shankman and Nigel Lythgoe are on board to direct and executive produce the two-hour show, tentatively titled "Carrie Underwood: An All-Star Holiday Special," which will air Dec. 7.

Underwood will perform previous hits, holiday classics and songs from her upcoming album and participate in comedy bits.

Musical guests signed so far to join her on stage include Dolly Parton, Brad Paisley -- her co-host at the 2008 and the upcoming 2009 CMA Awards -- and David Cook, last year's "Idol" winner.

"Seinfeld" alumna Carol Leifer, former "Frasier" exec producer Jeffrey Richman and actor/writer Seth Morris are penning sketches for the special. It is is being produced by Big Red 2 Entertainment, the joint venture between Lythgoe and Fuller named after the red-colored jerseys of the Brits' favorite soccer teams, Manchester United (Fuller) and Liverpool (Lythgoe).

The two formed the company following Lythgoe's departure from "Idol" last year after seven seasons at the helm of the top reality series.

Lythgoe is co-creator/exec producer/judge on "So You think You Can Dance," from Fuller's 19 Entertainment, on which Shankman also serves as a judge. Shankman's directing credits include "Bedtime Stories" and "Hairspray."

Underwood, the fourth season "Idol" winner, is the most successful recording artist to emerge from the competition series, with sales of more than 10 million albums in the U.S. and four Grammy Awards.

Her next album, "Play On," produced by Mark Bright, will be released Nov. 3 on 19 Recordings/Arista Nashville.

The Underwood special has been billed as a one-off, though the broadcast networks have been looking for ways to revive the variety series genre, so far unsuccessfully with Rosie O'Donnell (NBC) and the Osbournes (Fox).

John Mayer signed on in January to star in a variety pilot for CBS, which is still percolating at the Eye.
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