James Corden is offering more ride-share opportunities as his popular carpool singing franchise expands to Apple Music.
The 20-episode Carpool Karaoke: The Series, a spinoff of Corden’s hugely popular Late Late Show ride-along/sing-along segments, launches Tuesday with a Corden-Will Smith collaboration that takes to the L.A. skies in a helicopter. It marks Apple’s second TV series, following the Shark Tank-style Revenge of the Apps.
The late-night segment features Corden driving to work with a music star, such as Adele, Madonna or Lady Gaga, and breaking into conversation and song along the way. The spinoff shares the spirit and general structure, although Corden isn’t driving in most episodes and you don’t have to be a superstar singer to hitch a ride — although it helps.
“We realized there was an opportunity to open it out and make it with lots of people who seem to be keen to get in the car” but haven’t racked up any gold albums, Corden tells USA TODAY. There’s no host, either, “so that you’re peering in on two people’s lives in this very intimate setting.”
Two 12- to 25-minute episodes will be released each Tuesday on the subscription-based streaming service.
Corden and fellow executive producers Ben Winston and Eric Pankowski tried to bring together people with existing relationships, such as music-star friends John Legend and Alicia Keys, or “strange bedfellows” such as Metallica band members and Billy Eichner, who, “it’s safe to say, was not blasting Metallica music as a kid growing up,” Pankowski says.
The groupings yielded bonuses. “The night before the show, Alicia said, ‘Why don’t we call my friend Taraji (P. Henson) and get her to jump in the back seat?’ ” he says. As for Eichner and Metallica: “By the end, they’re hugging, having fun in a grocery store, singing and throwing salad on people.”
Other mass-transit mixes include: Michael Strahan and Jeff Gordon; Blake Shelton and Chelsea Handler; the Cyrus family, including Miley and Billy Ray; Shakira and Trevor Noah; Queen Latifah and Jada Pinkett Smith; Shaquille O’Neal and John Cena; Jessica Alba, Gwyneth Paltrow and Will.i.am, the mentors on Revenge of the Apps; and Sheryl Crown and Dirks Bentley.
“We’ve had a lot of fun trying to match up different people and seeing what results we get,” Corden says.
A Game of Thrones-themed episode features stars Sophie Turner and Maisie Williams. Corden bookends the season by appearing with NBA great LeBron James.
While The Late Late Show segment focuses on singing stars — Adele’s ride scored a phenomenal 165 million YouTube views — the series has a broader ridership.
“There’s lots of people we couldn’t do it with” on the late-night segment, Corden says. “But the prospect of Sophie Turner and Maisie Williams doing a carpool in Austin, Texas, is really interesting to us. Same as with Ludacris and Tyrese.” (Episodes were shot in multiple locations).
Although some expected the Carpool series to land on a more traditional TV network, Corden says Apple Music is a great home (with very deep pockets).
“They are a company that’s been built on music and their passion and excitement for the show made the whole thing an absolute no-brainer,” he says
Corden acknowledges the importance of the Carpool franchise to The Late Late Show.
“When you’re trying to make a late-night show, you’re searching for the segments that people will come back for, whether it’s Jay Leno and Jay-Walking or David Letterman and his Top Ten List and Stupid Pet Tricks or Jimmy Kimmel and Mean Tweets,” he says.
As for future Late Late Show Carpools, Corden would like to drive with some people from the Apple series, including Miley Cyrus, Legend and Keys, and he has a wish list of other superstars. “I would love for Taylor Swift or Beyonce or Jay-Z to help me get to work.”