Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony wanted their upcoming talent show, "¡Q'Viva The Chosen!," to stand apart from an already cluttered slate of song and dance reality TV offerings.
Instead of judging contestants from behind a panel, spinning around in oversized chairs or rejecting talent with a buzzer, Lopez and Anthony, along with choreographer/creative director Jamie King, traversed Latin America to handpick the talent for "Q'Viva," which premieres Saturday on Univision.
The premise of the series has Lopez, Anthony and King vetting singers, dancers, musicians and artists for a Las Vegas spectacle. The 12-episode series chronicles the multi-country selection process and rehearsals in Los Angeles before a two-hour live finale in April.
During a recent show preview at Soho House in West Hollywood, the question of where "Q'Viva" fits into a landscape of juggernauts that includes "The X Factor," "The Voice," "America's Got Talent" and "American Idol" — where Lopez returned as judge for its 11th season — was quickly answered. In the previewed episode, Lopez assessed a capoeira troupe in Brazil and a malambo group in Argentina, while Anthony ventured into an abandoned warehouse in Colombia to watch salsa caleÃ±a dancers.
"Q'Viva" is sparse on tear-stained back stories and public humiliations as entertainment — even when Anthony had to pass on a young singer in Nicaragua he did so gently by telling her he didn't know how she fit into the show. Those looking for snarky put-downs or dramatic contestants might be disappointed.
"We're not judges, we're show producers and we're putting together a live show," Anthony stressed to reporters during the recent Television Critics Assn. press tour. "What makes it interesting is we're documenting the process. You don't win anything. You either get cast in the final show, or not."
Though the show is focused exclusively on Latin artistry and culture, "Q'Viva's" ambitions don't wholly lie in the Spanish-language market. To strike a more universal appeal, the show was filmed in three languages: English, Spanish and Portuguese. It will also air in 21 countries across major TV networks in North, South and Central America. And Anthony revealed that Fox, home of "Idol," will broadcast the show in English in the spring, but the network has yet to formally announce any plans.
"American Idol" creator Simon Fuller and his XIX Entertainment will distribute the show outside the U.S. with the help of Dutch reality TV show producer Endemol ("Big Brother"/"Fear Factor").
"The English version will have additional footage and will be edited specifically for mainstream TV viewers in the U.S.," Fuller wrote in an email from the set of "Idol." "We're confident that it will find an audience that will be intrigued by the 'Q'Viva' journey, and Jennifer and Marc's quest to put together this spectacular show in Las Vegas."
A source from XIX Entertainment said the show has the potential to reach a global audience of 38 million — this is excluding the U.S., where Univision is the fifth-largest television network — after adding up the viewers in the other 20 countries slated to see the series. Mexico's Televisa and Caracol TV in Colombia have announced plans to air the series.
Julio Rumbaut, president of Miami-based media advisory firm Rumbaut & Co., said the show could strike gold with a formula that will be "icing on the cake" for audiences." 'Q'Viva' has some very basic and proven format attributes such as a talent search, celebrity hosts [and] a reality aspect," he said. "Moreover, it focuses on the Spanish-language culture, which is both a large market in and of itself and a culture [whose] art and music have great appeal to audiences worldwide."
Lopez, who speaks both English and Spanish on the show, is confident the series can have a broad appeal.
"It's going to be a great crossover. We've had Spanish people watch it, we've had English people watch … and it translates. We're speaking in English, we're speaking in Spanish, we're speaking in Portuguese," Lopez said. "I think because of all the reality-type shows that are out there right now, like 'Amazing Race' that go to different countries, [having subtitles is] not a big leap for anybody. Plus the music and the dancers are really the star of the show."
And for those curious, yes, the former couple address their marital woes through lighthearted jabs, with Lopez promising during the first episode that they are "very Sonny & Cher after the divorce."
"Working together has been great, we have a ball," she said. "It was the same as any other time we've worked together."
During the filming — which began in July — Lopez, Anthony, and King traveled to locations including Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Venezuela and Uruguay.
There are plans to take the final show on tour. "It was our dream to come together and show the world what Latin American talent really is. As much as we knew about it, going on this journey we learned so much more about it," Lopez said. "The world and everybody who takes this journey with us is going to be so pleasantly surprised, so elated, so lifted, so enriched by the experience."
When: 7 p.m. Saturday
Rating: Not rated