CMT buckin' for ratings

Bull-riding, prank shows on slate

Country singers Sara Evans, Martina McBride, Gretchen Wilson and Trent Willmon and rodeo champion Ty Murray are among those who will be featured in CMT's slate of seven new series and specials, which range from a practical-joke show to a search for the ultimate cowboy to a celebrity bull-riding challenge.

The slate, set to start rolling out in May, marks the first to be announced under new CMT head of development Bob Kusbit, who joined the network this year.

"Country music is unique in that the songs, the artists and the fans are so genuine and easy to relate to, and we're excited that each one of these new shows -- whether it's reality, competition, wish fulfillment or comedy -- will be packed with that CMT authenticity," Kusbit said.

The new series include:

"Ty Murray's Celebrity Bull Riding Challenge," a six-episode series debuting in August, is hosted by seven-time all-around world champion Murray. It follows eight celebrities, including country music artists -- to be announced later -- as they try to master the sport. The premiere and finale will be hourlong episodes; the others will be half-hours.

"Prankville," a six-episode, half-hour series debuting in May, puts a country twist on good-natured practical jokes captured by hidden cameras.

"Bandits vs. Smokies," an eight-episode, half-hour series bowing in May, is a caught-on-tape show in which hosts provide comedic commentary on the actions of hopeless criminals trying to outrun the law.

"Born Country" is an eight-episode, hourlong series premiering in June. Each episode of the docu-reality series follows the parallel lives of three people who have country roots in common -- ranging from karaoke queens to over-the-top country weddings to die-hard "Dukes of Hazzard" fans.

"CMT Diary," a half-hour series of specials debuting in May, is from the team that created "MTV Diary." "CMT Diary" will take viewers into the lives of popular entertainers, as told in their own words. McBride and Wilson are among the first artists who will be featured.

Meanwhile, Willmon is hosting the 90-minute special "America's Top Cowboy," airing in May. The special will center on a search for the "ultimate, great American cowboy," with six contestants competing for the title as well as a $50,000 cash prize.

Another new special, tentatively titled "Opening Act," will feature amateur performers competing for the chance to perform onstage with a country artist in their hometown of Asheville, N.C. The half-hour special, which will feature Evans, is set to debut in the summer.

In addition, CMT said that current series "Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team" will return for a second season in September, while "Trick My Truck" and "Country Fried Home Videos," which features Bill Engvall, are returning for third seasons in July. "Truck" is the network's highest-rated original series ever.

CMT added that it will feature exclusive content on all of its platforms -- including on-air, online and mobile -- for all of its new and returning series.
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