Q: The Singing Bee and Don't Forget the Lyrics came out at almost exactly the same time. How does something like that happen?
Robert: Our show was conceived, sold, announced and premiered first, first, first, and first. Having two shows coming to air in a short time frame was actually great, because the friendly competition involved made everyone on the production team and at the network that much more motivated to win. When the results came in, we were on top and The Singing Bee continues to be a big success.
Q: This season will feature some terrific theme nights, like "One Hit Wonders" with guest Toni Basil, and my personal favorite, a Lennon/McCartney night. You've also added karaoke-style games, a new set, and more. Is it tough to come up with ways to keep a show like this one fresh without straying too far from the basic formula?
Robert: Coming up with ways to keep The Singing Bee fresh is important and a lot of fun. We wanted to add more fun by adding musical guests. At the same time we decided to crank up the game element, so this Fall we’ve introduced the recurring Champion. You win the Bee, you get to come back the next show to defend your title!
Q: Is there a trick to finding the perfect songs to use in the show? Do you search for songs with often misheard lyrics, or are there other criteria to consider?
Robert: Virtually every song we choose for the show was a hit at some point in time, because they have to be songs that a big percentage of our viewers will remember, so they can play along with the show (whether they know every word is a different story). Once a song is selected, it still must pass the test of being able to be “sliced” into a question that is fair for the contestant and satisfying to the viewer. We do like to throw in songs with commonly misheard lyrics because the results often make for great television moments.
Q: How do you go about securing the rights to the songs, and who provides you with the "official" lyrics?
Robert: We have the best music clearance department ever, and they are incredibly resourceful in the way they track down the necessary people to get songs approved for use in the show. They clear a huge number of songs. It’s really a Herculean task. We look for songs that have not been recorded with different lyrics. In some cases, where a word or two may be different from one recording to another, we specifically identify the year and the artist to the contestant.
Q: Some critics claim that game shows and reality shows are contributing to the "dumbing down" of America. How do you respond to this kind of criticism?
Robert: Most Singing Bee viewers play along with the show and use the format to test their knowledge. When you sit there shouting at your TV, racking your brain for the correct lyrics, you’re actually using your brain. I’d call that the opposite of “dumbing down.”
Q: If you could bring any musical guest on the show for a theme night, living or dead, who would it be, and why?
Robert: This is a toss up – The Stones or Springsteen. I love their music – plus – the surprise moment for the contestants and audience would be enormous.