NBC orders competitive dance show

Craig Plestis says he's staying at the network

NBC is putting some Olympic-style competition back in primetime with a new dance series from the producers of "American Idol" and "So You Think You Can Dance."

The reality program will feature professional dancers from eight countries exhibiting different performance styles. "Lord of the Dance" Michael Flatley will host, and Nigel Lythgoe and Simon Fuller will executive produce.

"We've always wanted to be in the dance business, but the question was how to be unique and different," said Craig Plestis, NBC's executive vp alternative programming, development and specials. "Our show makes every other dance show seem like amateur hour. We got the best of the best. Americans will be blown away when they see what real professionals can do."

Given the success of ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" and Fox's "Dance," Lythgoe admits he was initially skeptical about launching another dance show. Once Fuller explained the Olympics hook, however, he was sold.

"It's the 'Olympic Games of dance' -- everybody gets it right away," Lythgoe said. "Dancing has taken off in this country, the Olympics took off in this country; here we're bringing them both together. It's not just celebrities and their partners trying to dance or young people attempting to be great dancers. These are the great dancers."

Each country's team will present two dance soloists, a duet and a group. Their performances will be graded by judges from each participating country.

The judges have a tricky job as each country will perform in a different style unique to their culture -- Shaolin monks from China vs. Bollywood dancers from India, for example. Troupes from Ireland, the U.S., Argentina, Russia and South Africa also are represented.

NBC is launching the series early next year. Nine hours are ordered, and the current plan is to air four two-hour episodes and a one-hour finale. Several titles have been considered, with "Dance Masters of the World" and "Superstar Dancers of the World" as two of the top contenders.
The series will be the first title produced by Lythgoe and Fuller's new company, which is called Big Red 2 Entertainment.

The name is inspired by the producers' favorite soccer teams, which both use red as their team color. NBC also is a producer on the series, whose international flair could result in an improved shot at overseas distribution.

Although several recent reports have speculated that Plestis' future with the network is at a crossroads, the executive says he's staying with the company.

"I'll be here for a long time at NBC," Plestis said. "I wouldn't be buying shows and talking about them if I wasn't."

Whether that means Plestis will continue as head of alternative, or spin off into a development deal, is unclear. Reports have speculated that former BBC Worldwide America head Paul Telegdy will soon take a top executive role at the network.

NBC has not yet announced its midseason schedule, but several reality projects are expected to play key roles. one. Plestis' variety show "Rosie Live" is airing next week, marking the first of a couple competing broadcast network variety shows to hit the air.

NBC's celebrity genealogy reality show "Who Do You Think You Are?" been given a green light, Plestis confirmed.

Based on a popular U.K. series, "Who" features celebrities learning about their past.

"We have A++ stars," Plestis said. "People we couldn't even get into our scripted shows. Movie stars. And it's amazing the journeys they're going on."

Another new reality show set to air next year is "Chopping Block," a cooking series starring British chef Marco Pierre White in which couples compete for the opportunity to open their own restaurant.

"We're just finishing it up right now," Plestis said. "It more than just about winning a reality show, it's about starting a life. They don't want to win, they have to win."

NBC hasn't yet decided an airdate for "Block," but the show presumably will try to avoid Fox's popular "Hell's Kitchen," which will return in the spring.

The next edition of "The Biggest Loser" also will launch early next year.

"We're going back to couples, but we have our oldest and youngest players ever and pound-for-pound the most weight we've ever had to lose," Plestis said. "Our biggest cast yet."

Another celebrity edition of "The Apprentice" also is under way, though no word yet whether "American Gladiators" will be back for another round in January.