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Entertainment Copycats Can Be Overachievers


The popularity of reality shows and the appeal of cheap-to-make programming for cable networks has made television more addicted to imitation than ever.

We've always been able to count on shows looking to ride the coattails of hits -- and sometimes the knockoffs have been successful in terms of either critics or ratings.

NBC's medical drama E.R. led to CBS' Chicago Hope. Diff'rent Strokes' formula was not-so-strangely similar to Webster. Dallas birthed Dynasty and Andy Griffith's move from black-and-white sheriff to murder-solving lawyer Matlock led producers to try a similar trick with Dick Van Dyke as a crime-solving doctor in Diagnosis: Murder. The Honeymooners was reborn with animated cavemen as The Flintstones.

Ghost Whisperer was not too far ahead of the similarly themed Medium. Family Guy is often maligned, fairly or not, as a rip-off of The Simpsons. Name a daytime "judge" show and they have Judge Wapner's original The People's Court to thank. In 1982, ABC had a moderate hit with Raiders of the Lost Ark imitator Tales of the Gold Monkey.

In terms of reality shows, we've had Discovery's Flip That House and A&E's Flip This House within months of each other and other variations on the theme still hitting airwaves even as the housing market has tanked. The bad economy may also be why we not only have Pawn Stars but Hardcore Pawn as well -- both using the same porny puns.

The Web site TheTVNews.tv tallied 17 baking shows that all managed to seek the success of Ace of Cakes on Food Network and its imitator on TLC, Cake Boss. That number was as of January, and we gave up trying to count additional sweet-tooth-themed shows that have tried to cash in on cookies and cupcakes since.

-- Written by Joe Mont in Boston.

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