BET’s sister station Centric and Jamie Foxx’s production team are joining forces to reboot the Apollo Amateur Night in the upcoming series “Apollo Live.” [Scroll down for a promo.]
Premiering Saturday, Dec. 1 at 8 p.m., the show puts a fresh coat of paint on the classic talent show and subsequent 80s variety series, and will film episodes inside of Harlem’s iconic Apollo Theater with new host, comedian Tony Rock.
“We think it’s really important to remind everyone that with all the competition shows that are on all the various networks, this was the first one,” BET exec Loretha Jones told the TCA last month. “This is where it all started. This is where people got the idea to sort of let the audience be inspired and give a regular person a chance to show their talent and try and break into the industry.”
Gladys Knight (center) in Centric’s “Apollo Live”
The original format was simple – amateurs perform for the Apollo audience, and are literally shuffled off the stage and out of the competition if they are booed. All of the night’s survivors stand side by side at the end and the contestant who receives the loudest applause wins the respect of the audience.
In the Foxx-produced reboot, winners will pocket cash and prizes along with the respect of the audience. Also, there will be mentors – Doug E. Fresh, Michael Bivins and Gladys Knight – seated within the audience.
“I was a judge on ‘American Idol’ the first year, and I really loved it,” Knight told us. “I was so excited, [thinking] ‘I’m going to get to talk to these young kids,’ but they had so much to help them in that arena. They were coached. They had vocal coaches working with them.
“Step on the stage at the Apollo, you probably just came from your apartment. You get up there on that stage. You ain’t got no whole lot of big band, no rehearsals [or] all this production and stuff around you. It’s raw. It’s live, and you got enough heart to step on that stage and do it like that – win or lose.”
Doug E. Fresh (center) in Centric’s “Apollo Live”
Harlem-born Doug. E. Fresh says that the Apollo boos can actually work to a young performer’s advantage.
“One of the hardest audiences you could ever perform in front of is an audience out of Jamaica. They throw bottles at you. But to me, in America, the hardest audience that you can perform in front of is probably the Apollo because the boos,” said the veteran rapper. “The boos is crazy. So what it is, it teaches you how to become a better performer. I learned from the Apollo. It’s like when you hear the boo, you cut it short and say, ‘I hear it coming. Let me cut my act short,’ or you continue through it, and when you get booed and later on you go back and try to research it.”
During filming of “Apollo Live,” Doug E. Fresh discovered that the audience has just as much of a part to play in a contestant’s success than the judges – and not just from the booing. Listen below.
The six-episode “Apollo Live” premieres Saturday, Dec. 1 at 8 p.m. – with a special sneak preview simulcast on BET and Centric on Sunday, Nov. 25 at 11 p.m., following the Soul Train Awards.