Nigel Lythgoe ("American Idol," "So You Think You Can Dance") is teaming up with E! for new music reality series, "Opening Act," which debuts July 9 at 10p E.T./P.T. on the NBC Universal cable network. E! will formally announce the new series as part of a development slate that includes nine original scripted series - the network's first - and a reality series "Married To Jonas" following Jonas Brother Kevin and his wife Danielle premiering August 19.
Where "Idol," "The Voice," "The X Factor" and its ilk have upstart singers actively auditioning for potential stardom, "Opening Act" will go directly to rising YouTube talent by surprising them with the chance to perform on an A-list artist's tour. Participating tours include Nicki Minaj's show in Miami; Rod Stewart's residency at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas; LMFAO in Orlando; Brad Paisley in Mountain View, Calif.; Jason Alden in Birmingham, Ala.; Jason Mraz in Honolulu and Gym Class Heroes in El Paso, Texas.
"There is an extraordinary amount of untapped talent out there," executive producer Lythgoe says in a statement. "But if you don't know the right people or have the right connections, you may never be discovered. With 'Opening Act,' we are democratizing a notoriously impossible process, pulling back the curtains on a consistently fascinating industry, and affording aspiring artists the chance of a lifetime."
The series will not be "judged," per se, but co-hosts include Mary J. Blige and Rock Mafia's Antonio Armato, rounding out what Lythgoe is calling his "A-List Artist Development Team." "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno"'s Olivia Lee will also appear throughout the series to surprise contestants with the news of their selection and recruit them for a "performance boot camp" with name talent. In addition to Lythgoe, executive producers for "Opening Act" include Nigel Lythgoe Productions' Steve Schnur, Simon Lythgoe and Kary McHoul.
The summer is shaping up to be a crowded one for music-themed reality series. In addition to new seasons of "So You Think You Can Dance" and "America's Got Talent" (featuring new judge Howard Stern), ABC is prepping its own entrant, "Duets," which debuts May 24 with judges Kelly Clarkson, John Legend, Jennifer Nettles and Robin Thicke. E! sister cable network Oxygen is also readying a second season of its own reality competition "The Glee Project," airing Tuesdays beginning June 5.