Singer Amy Grant (r) stars in 'Three Wishes,' premiering Sept. 23. (NBC)
When NBC premieres "Three Wishes" in late September, it will let its genie out of the bottle.
Each installment of the one-hour reality show finds its hosts in a new town somewhere in America for one week, listening to the wishes of citizens and granting three big ones (and a few small ones, too).
Five-time Grammy winner Amy Grant hosts the show, along with Carter Oosterhouse (NBC's "Today," "Trading Spaces"), Eric Stromer ("Clean Sweep") and Diane Mizota ("Trading Spaces: Boys vs. Girls"). Produced by former journalists Andrew Glassman and Jason Raff, "Three Wishes" premieres Friday, Sept. 23 at .
"It is an amazing use of network dollars and sponsorship money to do amazing, philanthropic things in people's lives," Grant told reporters in a conference call in mid-August.
The pilot episode is set in Sonora, Calif., where Grant and company focus on a young girl who needs facial reconstruction after an accident; a boy who wants to honor his stepfather; and a high school that needs a new football field.
There's more to the stories than meets the eye, however, giving the show another layer and putting it in solid competition with the likes of ABC's "Extreme Home Makeover."
Grant, who has sold more than 25 million albums in a career spanning Christian and pop music, said hosting this particular show fits her like a glove.
After the show began, she called her mother and said, "Mom, I have never in my life felt so equipped for a job, ever."
Grant pointed to her work with the Make-a-Wish Foundation, St. Jude Children's Hospital, Habitat for Humanity and other charitable organizations as preparation for the show. Grant, now 44, also said that people have been opening up to her since she was 17 and beginning her career.
"People have decided to tell me their life story and share very intimate details," she said. "With this [show], I just felt very equipped."
Producer Glassman said Grant was his pick all along.
"Absolutely no other names were considered for this job," said Glassman on the phone. "Amy was our first choice on our first day. I just thought, Whose public persona fits the values and the character of the show that we're trying to create? And I literally thought of Amy's name first."
Glassman met Grant shortly thereafter.
"She is the ideal choice," he continued. "The warmth and compassion she has for other people is so genuine and so real that it strikes you in the room on a personal level and it carries right through the screen."
It also comes through on the phone. Talking with reporters, Grant told story after story about the people she met doing the show. She said people's wishes sometimes revealed an even deeper longing—like the woman who at first said she wanted a body makeover, then eventually revealed that what she really wanted was for her husband to find her beautiful.
Ultimately, it's not up to Grant or the other hosts to choose which wishes get fulfilled. That decision belongs to Glassman and Raff, the executive producers. But goodness flows not just from the big wishes granted, but from what the show stirs up in the town, said Grant.
"There are lingering things that happen in a town after we leave," she said, adding that the show is important because it reminds people to care for each other—something that a lot of people may have forgotten.
"We live in an age when people are not connecting the way they used to, not meeting each other's needs on a basic level," said Grant. For her, the show is "a teaching tool."
As for any notion that "Three Wishes" relies on manipulating participants and audiences, Glassman said he appreciated such "healthy skepticism," but that the show is "real."
"The reactions that you're seeing on the people's faces and the gratitude they feel and the changes in their lives and the situations that they're in, those are real stories that we're coming upon," said Glassman. "The people on our show are not actors. They're real people."
"They are people who are caught in an emotional crossroads in their lives," he said, "and who genuinely are asking for a little help."