In "The WB's Superstar USA," (search) premiering May 17, truly awful singers who think they're talented will compete on a rigged "Idol"-type show.
"These people are confused about their lack of talent, and that's what makes this show so wrong - and so good," Fleiss told The New York Post. "We had to find bad singers who believed they were great . . . This is different than watching a bad singer who knows they're bad."
Fleiss pooh- poohed any similarities to William Hung (search), whose awful rendition of "She Bangs" during an "Idol" audition transformed him into a weird folk hero of sorts - winning him a modicum of fame and a record deal.
"I had this idea a year ago when I was shooting 'The Bachelor 3,' and 'American Idol' was taking off," Fleiss said. "I used to do a lot of clip shows, and I've seen bad performers sing and do comedy. I always thought 'The World's Worst Performers' would be a really good show.
"Connecting William Hung to this new show isn't really the same thing," he said. "Hung ain't no fool. He knows he's a lousy singer. You're going to see people who think they're good, and really stink."
The 12 singers, culled from nationwide auditions, were taken to Hollywood and given a makeover and voice, dance and singing lessons.
The joke is that, unknown to them, they were praised and encouraged by a team of "music experts" -- Tone Loc (search), Vitamin C and TV producer Chris Briggs -- who booted off the really talented singers and kept the croakers.
The finale will culminate with the worst singer being clued into the joke -- but also rewarded $100,000 and a record deal.
Fleiss said the reaction of the winner is, well, unexpected.
"It changes on a second-by-second basis - first it's bewilderment, then disappointment, then anger, then acceptance, then inspiration," Fleiss said. "It's a surprising ending. I guarantee we're going to be selling some records here.
"There's a history of unintentionally bad singing - look at William Shatner (search) and 'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,' " he said. "We think this is going to extend that tradition a little further."
The seven-episode series is hosted by MTV's Brian McFayden.
Meanwhile, Rocco DiSpirito, star of NBC's "The Restaurant," (search) has inked a deal with Endemol USA to host a syndicated cooking/celebrity chat talk show targeted for fall 2005.