Saturday, March 17, 2007
HOLLYWOOD, CA -- As the TV phenomenon American Idol enters the exciting countdown-to-the-winner phase of its sixth season, FOX network announced today an inevitable development: a spin-off, set to begin airing next winter. Evangelical Idol will search from coast to coast for America's next great worship leader.
"We're looking for people with a heart for God, who know how to bring worship to the next level," said Louie Giglio, recently hired by FOX to produce the show. "It's not enough to be a great vocalist. We're looking for star power--people who know when to close their eyes or raise their hands, when to make their voice break, when to modulate up a step. It takes the whole package to praise with passion and power week after week, to bring the Spirit of God in the house."
According to a FOX press release, the judges for the show have already been signed. With the Randy-Paula-Simon formula so crucial to the success of American Idol, it's no surprise that the three judges for Evangelical Idol correspond obviously to their secular counterparts.
In Randy Jackson's seat will be Texas musician David "Our Love is Loud" Crowder, who will bring industry savvy and gen-x grunge cred after years of experience in arena worship settings. Unlike Jackson, Crowder will be unlikely to call anyone "dogg." But according to show insiders, he could easily come out with "Dude, keeping it real... I just didn't feel the Spirit this time. It was just OK, a little pitchy in places. But here's what I love about you...."
Multi-platinum recording artist Amy Grant will bring to the judges' table wisdom (and modest sex appeal) culled from a bygone era of Christian music. Grant is expected, like Paula Abdul, to supply the quasi-maternal voice of compassion and encouragement. Grant blazed trails as a recording artist in the 1980s, raising the profile of the female evangelical artist with her crossover success. With the worship scene still dominated by male guitar messiahs, Grant is expected to help pass the mantle to the next generation of female trail blazers.
Filling perhaps the most difficult role--that of simultaneously beloved and loathed curmudgeon Simon Cowell--will be former Christianity Today columnist Andy Crouch.
"Andy is perfect for this role," stated a FOX network spokesperson. "He has tough objectivity, authoritative manliness, the ability to deliver the prophetic truth. After all, he's not only going to have to tell people they can't sing. He's going to have to tell them that, no, God is NOT calling them to worship leadership. But Andy's got the other half of the Cowell equation, too: the powder-puff heart deep inside."
Crouch will not be leaving his current post as director of the evangelical think tank Culture Makers. When asked about his new role on the show, Crouch stated, "How can I get closer to the heart of culture-making than this? This is where it happens, baby. The worship leaders of today will create the culture of tomorrow."
Crouch also admitted to brushing up his personal image for the show. "I'm scheduled to be fitted next month for tight, black T-shirts. Actually, I think I look pretty good in them."
The network announced an ambitious audition schedule beginning next fall. The crew will hold auditions on megachurch campuses in ten cities across the country, including South Barrington, IL; Colorado Springs, CO; Houston, TX; Lake Forest, CA; Fort Lauderdale, FL; Nashville, TN; and Grand Rapids, MI.
The show's producers also made public a list of potential themes for the last weeks of competition, when competitors will have to lead the studio band in worship songs of their choice from categories such as "Substitutionary Atonement," "Hymn 2.0" (rocked-out versions of traditional hymns), "Christmas Covers," and "X-treme Intimacy with Jesus."
Worship Leader Magazine editor Chuck Fromm, British songwriter Matt Redman, Down-Under worship diva Darlene Zschech, former members of the Christian metal band Stryper, and professional Christian opinion-giver and bow-tie wearer Martin Marty.
While initial plans had the show airing in the cable ghetto of TBN (Trinity Broadcasting Network) a chance meeting at a Burbank, California, AYSO soccer game got FOX people involved.
"FOX is already hip to the mighty spending power of evangelicals. Given our past success with the conservative demographic, we immediately saw the opportunity here," said a FOX network executive, who asked to remain anonymous.
"If the show catches on, we're looking at great potential for brand extension. Preliminary talks are already underway for a Liturgical Dancing with the Stars. We've approached Fuller Theological Seminary President Rich Mouw as host."
CAVEAT: This is a joke, OK? Just for laughs. Call off the lawyers. Thanks.