"The Four" searches for a star ... or, at least, a ratings hit

Do we really need another music-reality show? Well, Fox needs one ... and it's the network that started it all. So "The Four" starts Thursday (Jan. 4); here's the story I sent to papers:

By Mike Hughes

music-competition show is upon us..

Fox's “The Four”
has solid roots, a big build-up ... and a network that desperately
needs it.

“There's nothing
like a big, unscripted hit to drive viewership,” said Dana Walden,
Fox's co-CEO. Consider:

-- CBS was the
old-folks network, the place where Angela Lansbury and Dick Van Dyke
solved mysteries. Then “Survivor” debuted in the summer of 2000;
it would spend its first four seasons in the Nielsen top-10, bringing
young viewers who also caught “Big Brother,” “Amazing Race”
and more.

-- In its first 15
years, Fox never had a show in the top 15. Then “American Idol”
arrived in 2002 and soon scored -- fifth, then second (twice), then
No. 1.

-- NBC soon imported
other concepts. “America's Got Talent” arrived in 2006,
dominating summers; “The Voice” followed in 2011, toppling

-- As “Idol”
drooped, Fox decided the 15th season would be the last.
But ABC – fresh from failures with “Boy Band” and “Duets” –
is restarting the show April 11, after it missed only one season.
“The fans have been clamoring for it,” network chief Channing
Dungey said.

And now Fox is back,
with an Israeli concept. “It's really an experiment .... an event,
(so it) has to run across less weeks,” said Rob Wade, Fox's
reality-show chief.

This will be six
Thursdays, during a stretch when “Voice” is resting. Four music
pros – Sean “Diddy” Combs, DJ Khaled, Meghan Trainor and
Charlie Walk – choose four singers. Each week, newcomers challenge
them; on the finale, the four survivors challenge each other. “It's
basically like 'Game of Thrones,'” Wade said, “with better
singing and less nudity.”

Those experts will
try to push the winner to stardom, Walden said. That's “been
missing lately in music competitions.”

For a while, “Idol”
brought superstar winners (Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood) and more
(Jennifer Hudson, Chris Daughtry, Katharine McPhee, etc.). Now “Four”
tries to do the same.

-- “The Four,”
8-10 p.m. for six Thursdays, starting Jan. 4, Fox