Spike’s Upcoming ‘Caraoke Showdown’ Is Hitting the Wrong Notes With ‘Carpool Karaoke’ Creators

Late Late Show team mulls its options

Headshot of Jason Lynch

It looks like Spike's upcoming special, Caraoke Showdown, is going to lead to a real showdown between the cable network and the team behind The Late Late Show With James Corden's Carpool Karaoke.

Spike's Caraoke Showdown, which the network announced last week, is set in a car and includes a celebrity host, celeb guests and lots of singing along to tunes. In other words, the show sounds a lot like Carpool Karaoke, the popular segment on Corden's late-night CBS show that has become a viral sensation thanks to videos featuring Adele, One Direction and Justin Bieber. And that's not sitting too well with The Late Late Show's executive producers.

"We're disappointed with that. We're disappointed that our idea would be taken by somebody else," said Late Late Show executive producer Ben Winston, during an interview for an upcoming Adweek story about Carpool Karaoke's success.

Caraoke Showdown, which is from Howie Mandel's production company and will be hosted by Craig Robinson, is set to debut as a half-hour special later this year. According to Spike's release, "The premise of Caraoke Showdown features Robinson posing as a driver, picking up unsuspecting contestants who are along for a very unique ride upon realizing they are on a karaoke-inspired game show. During various rounds of game play, contestants must belt out their favorite tunes, finish the lyrics or act out songs for cash. Celebrity guest appearances add to the surprise as the contestants never know what's going to happen next."

With the new special, which could easily turn into a series, Spike hopes to continue its momentum from Lip Sync Battle, a spinoff of a signature segment on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. Now in its second season, Lip Sync Battle is the most-watched original series in Spike history. But Lip Sync Battle comes directly from Fallon's production company, Eight Million Plus Productions, while Caraoke Showdown has no direct ties to Corden or anyone involved with his show.

When the Late Late Show producers heard the news, "we'd be lying if we said we weren't disappointed, that you read that another production company is taking an idea that is clearly yours," said Winston. Added executive producer Rob Crabbe: "And every single mention of it in the press was, 'They're doing James Corden's Carpool Karaoke.'"

Given those comparisons, "I think the people who are making it are probably going, 'Oof, are we going to get away with this?' And of course, we're going to think about what our position is with regards to that," Winston said. "There's a way to go yet on that."

The producers and network didn't elaborate on whether those options would include potential legal action, but one possibility is that the Late Late Show will try to launch its own stand-alone Carpool Karaoke show. "We're looking at potentially doing our own version instead," said Winston.

As for whether that version would feature Corden or someone else as host, "I don't know," said Winston. "I don't think there's any info on that at the moment." Earlier in the month, producers had been more skeptical about the possibility of a Corden-less Carpool Karaoke series, with Crabbe telling Entertainment Weekly, "the trickier thing about that is Lip Sync Battle can exist without Jimmy Fallon, but Carpool Karaoke can't really exist without James Corden." But that interview took place before Spike's announcement, so now all bets are off.

Spike had no comment about the producers' reaction or Caraoke Showdown's similarity to Carpool Karaoke.

On Feb. 9, James Corden's Carpool Karaoke video with Adele became the most-watched late-night YouTube video of all time, with more than 68.1 million views. It overtook Fallon's Lip Sync Battle with Emma Stone, which ironically helped launch Spike's show. 

Look for more on Carpool Karaoke next week, in the Feb. 15 issue of Adweek.

@jasonlynch jason.lynch@adweek.com Jason Lynch is TV Editor at Adweek, overseeing trends, technology, personalities and programming across broadcast, cable and streaming video.