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 TV Bites With Neena Louise

What's New Copycat? - WHOAAAA!!

by Neena Louise

Why is it that when a show's premise is a hit, executives rush to jump on the bandwagon, trying to grab a piece of someone else's success?

Cases in point:


  • First it was The People's Court and only The People's Court. It was wildly popular for years, but eventually petered out. Then The People's Court made a sudden reappearance, quickly followed by Judge Judy, Judge Mills Lane, Judge Joe Brown, Judge Mathis, Divorce Court...sheesh! The only true success in the whole pack is Judge Judy (whom people simply love to hate).

  • In the 1970s, it was the paramedic show Emergency! It ran its course and there were no such shows for years. Then ER and Chicago Hope suddenly appeared and became hits. Boom! - L.A. Doctors, Third Watch, Wonderland, The Beat, City of Angels, two totally forgettable paramedic shows (so forgettable I can't even remember the names)... The only hits in the whole pack are the originals: ER and Chicago Hope.

  • Friends became a mega hit. A whole slew of totally wretched, totally stupid clones emerged (and receded) soon after. The only survivor is Friends.

  • First it was Cops. Then TLC came upon the scene with Paramedics and Trauma: Life in the ER. Then World's Wildest Police Videos, Highway Patrol, L.A. Detectives, all the other reality-based stuff on A&E... Though I'm sure TLC's and A&E's programs are modest hits, they are so few in number it's hardly worth tuning into after the first month of the new season. Wildest Police Videos enjoys some success, but that's been tempered since that arrogant dolt Burnell (the host) reluctantly admitted many chase scenes were re-creations. Cops remains the lone holdout (though the ratings are unimpressive, it's 10+ year survival IS).

  • On the coattails of X-Files' success, Millennium, Roswell, Earth: Final Conflict, First Wave, Stargate SG-1, etc. were created. Only the X-Files remains a hit.

  • Another trend is the "families-in-turmoil" shows: Once and Again, Providence, Judging Amy, Family Law, Get Real...y'know the ones. I think Providence started it. I wonder which one will emerge the victor?

  • The latest is the game show genre. I was glad to see its reappearance, but in the rush to cash in, Who Wants to be a Millionare? was quickly followed by Greed, Twenty-One, and Winning Lines - all of which stink. The only true success remains Who Wants to be a Millionare?.

  • I can see the next one coming now: The Sopranos started it. Falcone has suddenly appeared. I wonder how many Mafia shows we'll have to tolerate before the dust settles and The Sopranos is the lone survivor.

Do you see a pattern, here?

It happens all too often: a show becomes successful and suddenly there's an explosion of copycat shows. It's been going on for years and I can't believe executives are so stupid that they don't notice what happens: the series that originates the premise survives - the others do not. Just because a premise is successful, doesn't mean any show with the same theme will succeed. In this age of rapid-fire remote clicking, short-attention-spanned viewers and a lack of quality programming, the laziness of The Powers That Be is simply not tolerated by the general viewing public. Do they think we're really so stupid and sheep-like that if we see "game show" (or whatever) we automatically think "good show"? It has to be GOOD, you ijits, not just a GOOD IDEA.

When I see a copycat series coming, I roll my eyes and give it my "two-viewings-and-you're-out" method of deciding whether it's worth watching. I'm more reluctant to give a new show a chance when I know it's simply a clone of an existing hit, however - I approach it with the conviction that I won't like it. It would, therefore, have to be REALLY good (i.e., better than the show whose premise it's copying) in order for me to become a loyal viewer. One can only take so many court, reality, sci-fi, drama, hospital, family-in-turmoil, whatever shows, after all. 
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