Yesterday, CBS failed in its attempt to get a preliminary injunction to stop ABC from airing the reality series "Glass House," which CBS claimed is largely based on the same premise as "Big Brother" and is produced and staffed by former members of the "Big Brother" team. ABC claims that "Glass House" is a "wholly original" concept. In response to the court's decision, CBS put out a hilarious press release titled "CBS Announces Development of 'Dancing On The Stars,' an Exciting and Completely Original Reality Program that Owes its Concept and Execution to Nobody At All." The release goes on to describe the new show as washed-up actors and celebrities dancing on the graves of real celebrities in Hollywood.
CBS hits ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" right on the mark--but the shot then ricochets and hits CBS square in the chest. "Dancing With the Stars" is inane, but so is "Big Brother," which is all but unwatchable. For that matter, most reality television in the U.S. is pitched at developmentally-stunted young adults. Go down the list: "Survivor"? Entertaining once, but way past its prime. "American Idol"? The show's gotten to the point where no amount of cast changes is likely to reverse its slide. "The X Factor"? Mean-spirited and insipid at the same time. "The Bachelor/The Bachelorette"? The only way I could watch those shows is on a Demerol drip. And that's just the "first tier" of reality shows--with few exceptions, the rest are much, much worse.
As for "original concepts," it's important to remember that CBS didn't create "Big Brother"--they licensed it from Endemol. "Survivor" is a licensed version of a Swedish reality show called "Expedition Robinson." Fox's "American Idol" is based on the British show "Pop Idol," and "The X Factor" also came from the U.K. and is licensed from Simon Cowell and his company SYCOtv. ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" is based on the BBC's "Strictly Come Dancing." NBC's "The Voice" is based on "The Voice of Holland." You get the picture: When it comes to reality shows, U.S. networks don't create them--they buy them.
I have no idea whether CBS can prevail in court against ABC, but given the ratings for the first episode of "Glass House," it'll likely be off the air well before the case makes it to trial. To me, the whole thing is like saying "Your steaming pile of crap looks and smells just like my steaming pile of crap!" Yes, it does.