Singing, dancing, Lachey

MTV entertains slew of projects

MTV is giving young people the chance to follow their dreams through several new music- and dance-themed projects, including an unscripted musical drama from Nick Lachey that's described as a reality version of "Fame."

The network also has greenlighted to series two singing competitions — "Rock the Cradle," from FremantleMedia North America (Fox's "American Idol"), and the working-titled "Celebrity Music Mentor Project" — and has renewed the dance competition "Randy Jackson: America's Best Dance Crew" for a second season.

Brian Graden, president of entertainment at MTV Networks Music Channels, said the shows play into the ambitions of MTV's target demo.

"This is a positive generation that feels very empowered, like they can do anything, and these play into that notion," he said. "It's really so cool to watch how the definition of music television has morphed over the years. We're updating that for a generation who consumes music in different ways than even five years ago."

The untitled pilot from Lachey revolves around the students at his alma mater, the School for Creative and Performing Arts in Cincinnati. Tony DiSanto, executive vp series development and programming, said the project boasts a unique format that breaks new ground in the reality arena, similarly to how MTV's "Laguna Beach" launched a new form of unscripted storytelling.

It organically will blend performances by the students with the narrative about what takes place in the school. For example, it might feature students breaking out into dance in the cafeteria or use a student's practice session on his or her instrument as the soundtrack for a scene. DiSanto added that the project also features a "unique visual language that sets it apart" from other shows.

"The stories and relationships are all set to music that's organic in what's going on in the school and also performed by the kids," DiSanto said. "This is a genre-busting, creative experiment that I'm really excited about."

Lachey, a former MTV reality star with "Newlyweds: Nick & Jessica," brought the project to the network and is executive producing with Marc Platt and Russell Heldt.

As for the other three series, Graden said his team has spent a great deal of time researching how MTV's target demo consumes music and television.

"This idea of music democracy emerged — a participatory experience with music amateurs and/or celebrities," he said. "Our audience loves to participate rather than just sitting and watching."

To that end, each series has its own companion custom vertical site that will allow for extensive viewer participation and interaction.

"Rock the Cradle," an eight-episode series that premieres at 10 p.m. April 3, features the offspring of famous musicians competing every week in front of their parents, a panel of judges and a live audience to become stars in their own right. Set to compete are Chloe Rose Lattanzi, Crosby Loggins, Jesse Money, Lucy Walsh, Lil Al B Sure, Jesse Blaze Snider, Lara Johnston, Akeiba Burrell Hammer and Landon Brown. MTV is planning a "24/7 tactile experience" for viewers as they vote for their favorite singer or chat up their parents at George Moll, David Goffin and Larry Rudolph are executive producers.

"Celebrity Mentor" pairs up eight music celebrity mentors with eight amateurs who will compete to become pop stars. MTV still is finalizing the celebrity cast list for the series, set to premiere in the fall. Hopefuls will be able to post their videos online, with the celebrities each selecting one contestant to coach. Viewers will whittle down the group over the course of the eight-week competition.

Meanwhile, "Dance Crew," which debuted Feb. 7 and has been the top-rated cable telecast in Thursday primetime among the 12-34 demo, will be back for a second season in the summer with 10 new episodes. This time, viewers will serve as casting directors, with aspiring dance troupes getting the chance to post their videos at and the audience favorites being featured on-air. The series, from Warner Horizon Television, is executive produced by Jackson, Joel Gallen, Howard Schwartz & Karen Schwartz, Rob Lee, Harriet Sternberg and Abe Hoch.