Dating game: Played out?
By RICHARD HUFF
DAILY NEWS TV EDITOR http://www.nydailynews.com/entertain...5p-77689c.html
Who Wants to Be Another 'Millionaire'?: NBC's 'Love or Money' keeps to familiar themes.
Ripping off a rival TV show has been as common as pigeons on a New York street.
But copycatting reality shows has accelerated to such a degree that rival networks now can find themselves showing similar programs at the same time.
Last summer, ABC launched "The Bachelor," a dating show with one guy picking from 20 women.
Earlier this season, Fox launched "Joe Millionaire," a dating show with one guy picking from a pool of women. The twist was that the women were told he was filthy rich, when in fact he was a construction worker who got filthy on the job.
Now NBC is preparing "For Love or Money," a dating show set in a mansion, where - have we heard this before? - a man picks from a pool of women.
The hook? The woman the bachelor picks gets $1 million, but the guy doesn't know about the cash. NBC probably wouldn't have been out of line calling it "Jill Millionaire."
Then there's Fox's ill-fated "Mr. Personality" and a promising CBS series called "Cupid," produced by "American Idol's" Simon Cowell, where a bachelorette picks from a group of guys.
"This virus has spread about as fast as any cultural virus ever," said Prof. Robert Thompson, who runs Syracuse University's Center for Popular Television.
Copying proven formats is an accepted way of doing business in Hollywood. When "Friends" hit big a decade ago, every network rushed wanna-be shows to the air - and failed.
But with the seemingly unquenchable thirst of network programmers - and the audience - for reality shows, producers are going back to the same well more often than ever.
Earlier this year, CBS sued ABC over the concept for "I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!" saying that idea mirrored "Survivor." CBS lost, and the ABC show died in the ratings.
To that end, CBS-run UPN launches "America's Next Top Model" tonight. It's a "Survivor" for future models. Rather than eating bugs, they undergo Brazilian bikini waxes - on camera.
In some ways, CBS' inability to stop ABC may have encouraged others to pluck parts from the successful shows and build new shows around them.
"The great shows, the breakthrough shows, almost always have something in common with the shows that came before," said TV historian Tim Brooks, research director at Lifetime. "If you look at 'Laugh-In,' it was a comedy-variety. There had been comedy-varieties before hand, but the way they did it was just so different."
But is the current crop of reality shows different enough?
"If I had been the creator of 'The Bachelor,' I would have taken some issue with 'Joe Millionaire,' " said Thompson, who testified for CBS in the ABC case. "You want to rip off the thing that did really, really well. I think they've gone too far. I think the genre has gone too far."
But that's up to viewers of "For Love or Money" to decide.