Eric Liebowitz, NBC
Singer Michael Bolton, right, rehearses with his choir.

If you're looking for a kinder, gentler reality/competition show, "Clash of the Choirs" is sort of the anti-"American Idol."

The four-night event on NBC features competition among five choirs, hand-picked by five well-known singers — Michael Bolton, Patti LaBelle, Nick Lachey, Kelly Rowland and Blake Shelton. Each goes to his/her hometown, conducts auditions and picks a 20-person choir.

"I had the opportunity to bring them together, turn 20 voices into one voice, walk them through the process of a professional preparation for a national television show in front of tens of millions of people," Bolton said in a teleconference with TV critics.

This is not only a team competition, the teams are competing for charity, as well. The winning choir wins money that will go to a charitable organization in its hometown.

"You have this team of people who are not doing it for individual gain," said executive producer Jason Raff. "So I think that makes this show unique."

And the intent here is to do something completely unlike the cut-throat, mean-spirited shows that overpopulate TV.

"I didn't want to get involved in anything that was ... a trashy part of reality TV," Bolton said. "I was only interested when they explained that we're going to inspire young un-established singers."

While the show will include footage from the audition process, the producers aren't out to humiliate anyone.

"I didn't want to judge people and tell them that they're not good," LaBelle said. "What I said to the ones who didn't make the list of 20 (was) that didn't mean that that's the end of your life. Patti LaBelle does not, you know, control the rest of your life. "I don't think of it as one of those reality shows which I find sometimes to be disgusting."

This is not a gospel competition. The choirs will sing all kinds of music in a variety of genres. There will be no on-air judges, although the five stars will evaluate their competition. Which choirs will be eliminated after each episode will be determined entirely by viewers' voting.

And Raff said it won't be like "when your torch is extinguished and you're kind of banished off the island.... We're not sending anyone home. You'll see (all) the choirs in that last episode and there'll be some surprises."

• After tonight's two-hour premiere (7 p.m., Ch. 5), "Clash of the Choirs" airs Tuesday from 7-8 p.m.; Wednesday from 7-9 p.m.; and Thursday from 7-8 p.m.

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