“It’s pretty sad that unethical behavior can deny people their intellectual property,” said Stephen McPherson, the president of ABC Entertainment, whose struggling network could lose a potential hit because of Fox’s success with “Trading Spouses.”
Fox’s defense has been to point to a history of rampant imitation of ideas in television. Fox executives call the network’s behavior business as usual and dismiss its rivals as whiners.
Call Fox sly or cagey or unscrupulous, but all fare’s fair in the reality TV wars. Fox likes to sniff out a good show being planned on another network, then leap out of its hole with a near carbon copy and get it on the air first. It happened last week with the highly watchable Trading Spouses: Meet Your New Mommy, which Fox aired before ABC’s identical Wife Swap, which won’t air until fall (and which ABC got from UK TV). Fox’s boxing-themed reality show, The Next Great Champ, will make it to living rooms two months before NBC’s very similar The Contender. And just last week, after ABC signed a deal with a British company for Super Nanny, a reality show with strict governesses, Fox followed ABC’s lead by also making a deal with the Brits for a show featuring nannies. ABC is pissed. Fox is pleasing the Nielsen families. (NY Times)