Sandra P. Angulo
March 23, 2000 AT 05:00 AM EST

What could be better than creating a multimillion-dollar boy band? For Trans Continental Records’ head Lou Pearlman — who gave us the Backstreet Boys and ‘N Sync — it would be developing a best-selling vocal group AND a hit TV series. That’s what he’s shooting for with ”Making the Band,” a new ABC show produced by Bunim/Murray Productions, the creators of MTV’s ”Real World.” Friday’s premiere (9:00 p.m.) highlights the selection of eight 18- to 25-year-old guys who’ll live together as roommates while vying for one of five spots in a BSB-like band called O-Town.

Friday you’ll see how 1,800 auditioners were narrowed to just 8 finalists. And who could resist watching? Especially when numerous scenes of good-looking guys belting ”Amazing Grace” a cappella, crooning BSB songs, and showing off dance moves are capped by the real fun part: the final cut. ”There were grown guys crying when their names weren’t called,” recalls Ashley Parker Angel, an 18-year-old California native. ”I got called fourth, and I just remember thinking, I’m one of 8 from 1800. Wow.”

Future episodes will follow the potential JCs and Justins as they move into a three-bedroom, lakefront Orlando house and are molded into professional performers. Each day, Angel and the other O-Town finalists endure enough vocal, dance, and poise training to make Britney Spears queasy.

”It was like boot camp,” Angel says of the 10-hour days of rehearsal. And if that wasn’t bad enough, he and the others had to deal with the built-in drama of knowing three of them would eventually be sent packing by TransCon. (Viewers won’t find out which three until May 26, when the previously taped episode airs.) ”There was so much pressure knowing you were always being evaluated,” Angel says. ”And THEN you had to go home and realize you’re living with three guys who weren’t going to make it, and one of those guys could be you.”

Since the final selection was made, O-Town has recorded four songs, one of which, the dance single ”All for Love,” went to radio last Monday. But if you’re expecting ”Tearing Up My Heart” part deux, Angel says forget about it: ”We’re not trying to be like the Backstreet Boys or ‘N Sync, because we want to have our own style. We’re going for an edgier, more aggressive voice.” Sure, they may have tightly choreographed moves and teen-approved looks, but the ”Making the Band” crew strives more for Motown than Boytown. ”Despite our different musical backgrounds,” says Angel, ”our role model — our god — is… Michael Jackson.”

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