Billy Ray Cyrus is returning to TV. During CMT's annual upfront presentation this morning in New York City, the cable network announced a full slate of original programming, including a scripted series starring Cyrus as an Elvis-loving charlatan preacher. Titled Still the King, the show is slated to premiere in early 2016.
"I play a dysfunctional Elvis impersonator who ends up lying his way into a church out of desperation, to help pay his child support," Cyrus tells Rolling Stone Country. The singer-actor, whose past television experience includes the series Doc and Hannah Montana (starring superstar daughter Miley Cyrus), will executive produce and write for Still the King.
He also plans to leverage his music business ties to incorporate guest stars and their songs. Randy Travis has a cameo in the pilot as a sheriff (filmed before his 2013 stroke), and Shooter Jennings is set to make an appearance in a house band.
"I like shows I can bring music into and I'm very excited about the possibilities of where this can go. I'm looking forward to cutting some Elvis tunes," Cyrus says. "And Shooter can play [his songs] when he's onstage. It's a great platform for all of us, a little place to go out and hawk our homemade quilts."
Along with Still the King, CMT will roll out a new reality series following Kellie Pickler and her songwriter husband Kyle Jacobs. Tentatively titled I Love Kellie Pickler, the show will chronicle their quirky he said/she said romance and lifestyle. Ryan Seacrest, Pickler's old American Idol pal, is the show's producer.
"It finally feels right with the people that we’re working with [Seacrest], and having CMT as our home. There's no drama, there's no cat fights. Nothing like that," Pickler tells Rolling Stone Country. "We just want to be a bright light and make people happy — make 'em feel good and help them get away from their day a little bit."
In addition to the Cyrus and Pickler vehicles, the network announced the May 14th premiere of the bawdy and boozy Party Down South 2 and the airdate for its 2015 CMT Music Awards, which will be held June 10th in Nashville. The CMT Artists of the Year special will also return in December.
Cyrus recently premiered a new song with Jennings on Rolling Stone Country. A haunting duet, "Killin' the Blues" will be released on Record Store Day, April 18th, by Jennings' Black Country Rock label.
(Additional reporting by Denise Quan)