Lip Sync Battle to debut on Spike TV

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John Krasinski was driving on Route 101 to Los Angeles about two years ago when the global beats of Lionel Richie's All Night Long (All Night) took over the car. The comedian, known for playing Jim Halpert on The Office, grabbed an air microphone and started lip syncing.

Suddenly, a battle was on. Writer Stephen Merchant, also in the car, dramatically mouthed the words to Will Smith's Boom! Shake The Room. Krasinski's wife, actress Emily Blunt, silently performed Blackstreet's No Diggity.

The trio had been brainstorming funny bits for an appearance that Krasinski was about to make on Jimmy Fallon's Late Night show. The road tripinspired concert provided the answer. Krasinski pitched the idea of a silent singing contest to Fallon, who was game.

Fallon opened the duel, standing behind the microphone and pretending to belt out Melissa Manchester's ballad Don't Cry Out Loud. Krasinski countered with pop-princess dance moves and Katy Perry's Teenage Dream.

"As cliche as it sounds, something magical happened," Krasinski said, recalling the performance. "Jimmy turned to me and said, 'Oh my gosh. This is going to be huge.'"

And huge it has been. Fallon took the contest with him when he became host of The Tonight Show, where it quickly exploded into one of his most popular bits.

A battle against Emma Stone and a three-way contest with Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Merchant rank as the most watched of all of Fallon's YouTube clips, each drawing more than 41 million views.

Fans have started their own lip sync battles and posted them on the Web. Such competitions are also a popular element of RuPaul's Drag Race, in its seventh season on the Logo TV cable channel, and are frequently reposted on the Web by fans.

Now, that viral sensation is getting a stage of its own with tonight's debut of Lip Sync Battle, a 30-minute show on Viacom's cable network Spike TV. Hosted by rapper LL Cool J, with commentary from model Chrissy Teigen, the show features a parade of celebrities - Common vs John Legend; Anne Hathaway vs Blunt; Justin Bieber vs Deion Sanders - lip syncing and dancing to songs of their choice. There are costumes, choreography and backup dancers. At stake are bragging rights and a giant, jewel-encrusted Lip Sync Battle championship belt.

The premiere episode features Fallon battling Dwayne Johnson, better known as The Rock. Fallon does a rendition of Madonna's Like A Prayer, donning a gospel choir robe and backed up by a choir. Johnson, the former wrestler and star of a number of action-adventure films, shakes his hips to Taylor Swift's Shake It Off.

Fallon's company, Eight Million Plus Productions, Krasinski and Merchant pitched the idea for Lip Sync Battle to Spike TV more than a year ago. It was shortly after Merchant's Tonight Show battle against Fallon and Gordon-Levitt, which quickly spread online. The team had originally pitched the idea to NBCUniversal, which passed, Krasinski said. Spike TV executives bought it on the spot.

Merchant said he was initially sceptical that the concept would translate into a half-hour series. "My first instinct was, it was a funny little bit on Jimmy's show, but why would you want to watch a whole show of it?"

But after participating in one episode and watching other tapings, he said he was convinced that audiences would be swept up in the activity. "The more you make a fool of yourself, the more fun it is, really," he said.

New York Times

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