Television has a long history of follow-the-leader, a show becomes a hit and the other networks scramble to produce a copycat. This has been a Fox strategy for a longtime. Anyone remember the explosive popularity of “Who Wants To Me A Millionaire”? Fox rushed their own version to the small screen, the short-lived “Greed”. This past year they had another knock off of a hit show on another network. When “Joan of Arcadia” became a big hit, Fox countered with the failed “Wonderfalls”.
What has the other networks up in arms now is they allege that Fox is no longer waiting for the competing networks to air their programs before Fox puts a copy on the air.
Fox took hits from ABC and NBC at the Television Critics Assn. press tour, then Fox entertainment president Gail Berman came firing back. "The baseless allegations of theft and extortion are outrageous and unacceptable," Berman said.
On the practice of networks copycat tendency Berman said, "There's nothing new about this; this is a competitive business".
"Producers see what's working and come up with another take on it. This is the way the business works. It's unfortunate that they've created some sort of drama around something that is the way business works in television and, frankly, the movie business."
Berman’s comments came after NBC and ABC
criticized Fox for stealing show ideas. The most egregious allegation came
from NBC Universal Television Group president Jeff Zucker, he accused Fox
of rushing production for the boxing reality-competition show “The Next
Great Champ”, two months after they lost their bid for “The Contender”.
While “the Contender” was in the works before the Fox series, “The Next
Great Champ” will land the first round on television.
Berman dismisses such allegations, "Multiple projects with similar themes are being pitched simultaneously," Berman said. "We are constantly striving to find the next new big idea while exploring ideas in the popular culture. In the creative world, ideas are fluid, and no one can claim sole ownership of an entire arena. People who are acting as if they invented the sport of boxing are disingenuous at the least."
ABC is upset with Fox over another reality based program. ABC Primetime Entertainment president Stephen McPherson came out firing a couple days after NBC took Fox to task over stealing ideas. This time the controversy surrounds ABC’s “Wife Swap”, which is set to debut this fall, pushed back from the original launch plan on the ABC’s summer scheduled. The basic idea is taking two women and having them swap families for a period of time. Fox obviously thought it was good show idea as their version of the show "Trading Spouses: Meet Your New Mommy" debuts this week.
Berman again defends Fox’s decision and also alludes that ABC shares part of the blame for Fox getting the idea on the air first. Berman says that ABC’s decision “not to put the show on in the spring or the summer was a big surprise to us. And when we learned they were putting it on in the fall, there was an opportunity in the marketplace." (For Fox’s version of the idea).
Meanwhile, one of Fox’s rare ‘almost’ original
program ideas that ran this summer in the form of “The Jury,” isn’t
likely to return due to low ratings. The show based on a similar idea to
the “12 Angry Men” has been met with critical praise but the viewers never
caught on. Fox viewers have opted for less intelligent programming like
the “Simple Life 2” and the nighttime soap “North Shore”, both shows that
Fox says will be renewed for another season.