No matter how huge the reality TV bubble becomes, it's a safe bet that American Jazz Idol will never be part of any network's primetime schedule. No, the closest we're ever likely to get is The Casino, currently airing on Fox stations, with 24-year-old pop-jazz crooner Matt Dusk cast in the pivotal role of, well, a 24-year-old pop-jazz crooner. Fortunately, Dusk could eat your average American Idol wannabe for breakfast. A classically trained Canadian (and graduate of Toronto's esteemed St. Michael's Choir School), Dusk is the real deal-blessed with a rich, polished sound that suggests Vic Damone by way of Steve Lawrence, a retro, Sinatraesque style that fits him like a Sy Devore sharkskin suit and the sort of lady-killer looks that certainly don't hurt in the saloon singer business.
Most fledgling vocalists would be happy with a positive review or two. Dusk is spending the entire summer performing tracks from his stylish Decca debut, Two Shots, in front of a national TV audience. The title track, written for Sinatra by Bono and presented to Ol' Blue Eyes as an 80th birthday present, doubles as The Casino's theme. Wisely surmising that "the show is going to knock several years off" his exposure curve, Dusk acknowledges that, "it's an extraordinary opportunity to have your face and your music plastered in front of 10 to 15 million people each week."
Produced by Mark Burnett, the Australian godfather of reality TV, the 13-episode series follows entrepreneur pals Timothy Poster and Thomas Breitling, who pooled their dot-com millions and bought Vegas' crumbling Golden Nugget to see if they could reignite the Sin City landmark's mid-'60s, ring-a-ding-ding magic. A friend of a friend suggested Dusk for the semiregular role of the casino's nightclub singer. Next thing you know, he was winging his way to L.A., where, he recalls, "they said, 'OK, what we'll do is put you in the show for the first episode, and if the owners of the casino like you and hire you, then you'll continue on. If not, you're not a part of the story and you're out.' Fortunately they liked me." If The Casino approaches anywhere near the viewership of Burnett's Survivor and The Apprentice, Dusk could easily leapfrog over such equally fresh-faced newcomers as Peter Cincotti and Jamie Cullum. "If not," he shrugs, "it's not a big deal to me. I'll just head back to Toronto and sing in the clubs."