Who could possibly fill James Corden's shoes as the host of the upcoming spinoff Carpool Karaoke series on Apple Music? No one, it turns out.
Instead, the producers of the show, which is based on Corden's phenomenally popular Carpool Karaoke segments on CBS' The Late Late Show, have decided that each of the first season's 16 episodes will have its own host—and one of them will be Corden himself. Corden and the show's other executive producers made the announced at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour in Pasadena, Calif.
The half-hour series will pair up celebs, with one of them taking Corden's place behind the wheel as they drive around—and yes, sing along to tunes in the car—and visit places that are meaningful to one of the celebs in the car.
Pairings for the first season will include Corden and Will Smith, Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane and Ariana Grande, Chelsea Handler and Blake Shelton, and Alicia Keys and John Legend.
While producers initially discussed having a singular host, they quickly realized that "what James does on the Late Show does is so special and so singular and so unique, that it was silly … to try to replicate that," said executive producer Eric R. Pankowski. "What we fell in love with was the idea of almost doing 16 specials, because that's really what these end up being. Each one is its own event."
Some pairings tap into existing friendships, like Shelton and Handler, and Legend and Keys, while others feature unlikely pairings, like Billy Eichner and Metallica. "By the end of our journey together, they were hugging, they were best friends, it was an unbelievable journey to watch," said Pankowski, who credited Late Late Show executive producer Ben Winston (who is also executive producing this series) with the idea to have different celebs host each episode.
After taping the first show, with Legend and Keys, "We realized this is a really special thing we can do. It sets it apart from what James and Ben do on the Late Late Show. So it's been a really fun experience," said Pankowski.
As the first series on Apple Music, Corden says he has no idea whether the show will feature advertising breaks or not, but joked, "They're going to be advertising a lot of Samsung Galaxy Note 7s."
Even after the Carpool Karaoke series launches, the segments will continue on The Late Late Show. "We're still going to do it on our show. This just became a wonderful platform to see these people in an intimate environment," said Corden. "You see people in an environment on television that you've never seen them in before."
Corden and Winston aren't worried that the show will oversaturate the Carpool Karaoke brand. "One is made as a bit on a talk show and the other is an interview series where you pair two people," said Winston.
The show also allows producers to involve celebs who aren't singers, but had previously expressed interest in appearing on The Late Late Show segment and couldn't because they weren't musicians. "Here it's about talking people who aren't musicians necessarily and putting them in that car," said Winston.
Last July, CBS announced that it would spin off Carpool Karaoke as its own series on Apple Music, which gives subscribers access to more than 30 million songs and costs $9.99 per month.
Speaking with investors last year, CBS Corp CEO, chairman and president Leslie Moonves explained that Carpool Karaoke went to Apple Music over the company's own streaming service, CBS All Access, because "Apple offered us an extremely good deal," and it gave the company another buyer for CBS' content. He added that as a music-related show, it was a good fit with Apple Music and offered cross-promotion opportunities between that platform and CBS.
Winston had initially been dismissive of efforts to spin off Carpool Karaoke, as The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon had done with Lip Sync Battle on Spike. But that changed a year ago, when Spike announced its plans for Caraoke Showdown, which also combines cars and karaoke.
"We're disappointed that our idea would be taken by somebody else," Winston told Adweek last February, in his first public comments about the Spike news. "We're looking at potentially doing our own version instead." And now he has.