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ABC BANKS ON EHRLICH'S HITS

A prime-time network music series without a competition element? It’s been a dog’s age since American audiences has seen a show of that nature—we’re scratching our heads wondering what the last one was—but ABC and Ken Ehrlich have 45 acts performing the greatest hits of 1980 through 2005 over six weeks starting 6/30.

Greatest Hits, which Ehrlich is producing with Raj Kapoor and James McKinlay through his AEG Ehrlich Ventures,  breaks down the era into five-year blocks. The hourlong show features original acts on their own and working with contemporary artists in addition to current acts get to tip their fanboy caps and cover artists they loved in their youth.

The premiere features Pitbull with REO Speedwagon and Jason Derulo covering Michael Jackson’s smash “Human Nature”; Rick Springfield, Ray Parker Jr., Kim Carnes, Kool & the Gang and Kenny Loggins perform their hits from the period.

“It’s been like old home week—I’ve had so many of these acts on the Grammys and other shows: Boyz II Men, Backstreet Boys, Chicago,” says Ehrlich,  the Grammy Award executive producer who is returning to series TV for the first time since the 1990s.

About three years ago, Ehrlich had pitched the Disney-owned network a variation on American Idol that would focus on veteran heritage acts. They passed, but around the time of the Grammys this year, ABC called to see if he would do a show focused on hits of the recent past without a competition element.

The shows will go a little bit out of chronological order after the first episode and culminate 8/4 with a two-hour live show at the Microsoft Theater in Hollywood. The finale is still being booked.

“For about 75-80% of the acts, we built packages to give background on the acts and the hits for the audience who might not be familiar with the songs,” he says. “One thing we purposefully did was booked audiences between 18 and 30. They were singing along with ‘Jessie’s Girl,’ right along ‘I Want to Know What Love Is,’ ‘Love Stinks.’ I don’t know if it surprised me or not, but I believe this is music that touches every generation.”

And as the king of pairing artists who ordinarily would not be on the same stage together, Ehrlich has partnered Backstreet Boys with Meghan Trainor, Jewel and Tori Kelly and LL Cool J alongside Wiz Khalifa. John Legend will cover Lauryn Hill; Miguel will do Steve Winwood.

Arsenio Hall and Kelsea Ballerini are the show’s hosts. Arsenio’s a given—“his show was on in the middle of this period and I think he had most of these acts on,” Ehrlich notes—but Ballerini, Black River’s emerging country singer and songwriter known for “Love Me Like You Mean It,” is the sort of choice you don’t see networks make often.

“We wanted to pair Arsenio with someone young, hopefully from the music world,” says Ehrlich, who knew Ballerini but had not worked with her. “We looked at several artists, looked at some tape of her on YouTube and saw she has a real presence.  The first time we put her on camera with an audience it was like she had done this her whole career. She handled it very well.”

Ballerini will perform at least once on the show, Ehrlich says, but he thinks hosting shows may be in her future as well. “If she wanted to do it, this could be a direction for her.”

 

 

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