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Reality Will Eat Itself, Part 1
Gordon Pepper

Any time that any network has a good idea, the other networks attempt to pull a Dolly the sheep and clone it. It gets even more competitive for reality shows, as reality shows cost much less to produce and can be put in the can and ready to go on the air quicker than their non-game counterparts. Some times a clone actually works out (Like CBS cloning itself when Big Brother evolved into the summer version of Survivor), but usually, with the exception of the Nanny and the Spouse Swap shows, the clone usually disappears quicker than Trista Sutter in Dancing With the Stars.

Let's go back to Survivor. We got the incredibly lame 'I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here!', as well as 'No Boundaries', 'Wickedly Perfect' and any other reality show which features 2 teams voting out a person when their team loses a challenge. Shows like Big Brother and The Biggest Loser worked because there were modifications in the game play to make it stand out on it's own - but pitifully, we only have two of those, and plenty of substandard dreck in this genre.

Then there was 'The Apprentice' Era, where Burnett once again took an idea and made it great. Unfortunately, that spawned wanna-be shows from Mark Cuban, Andy Dick and Richard Branson, a really bad spoof sham from Fox (My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss) and now we have to sit through one from Jerry Hall (Yuck) Kathy Hilton (Double Yuck) and Tommy Hilfiger (I don't care if the theme is fashion. Jason Block nailed it when he counted all of the Apprentice references and homages in the show). The problem here is that because of all of the bad clones, the luster is starting to come off the original. The Donald hopes that he and Martha Stewart can revive it, but we'll have to see.

Next up - The Sports Competition genre. Both The Contender and The Next Great Champ is down for the count, but ironically, a clone from that genre is doing the best. Based on The Ultimate Fighter, these people show more heart and personality then their boxing counterparts. What may be the secret of their success? They show the whole fight in it's entirety and spend more time on the dream, instead of overdramatizing it or making it into a pale shell of Rocky.

The only show that escaped erosion is American Idol - though it's not like other networks didn't try. The competing networks even got a successful clone out of it - Nashville Star - and a sort of successful clone - Star Search, which lasted for 4 runs and had competitors such as Jessica Sierra, Amanda Avila, John Heffron and Alonzo Bodden (any of those sound familiar?). Unfortunately, we also got clunkers such as Fame, The Next Action Star, American Juniors and Missy Elliott.

Of course, we have to grab the latest trend and copy the crap out of that too. After Dancing With The Stars, the networks that be have decided that we want to see CELEBRITIES IN ACTION! So coming down the pike for your entertainment - Ice Skating With The Stars! I'm a Celebrity but I want to Sing Too! Battle of the Reality Network Stars! I'm sure some of these sound more appealing than others, but they are all coming from the same source - and quite frankly, watching blatant copies of shows who claim to be original is getting very tiring.

Sure, there are shows who take ideas from other shows and are hits in their own right, but unfortunately, what we get most of the time isn't an acceptable clone, but a bastard child which disintegrates in a matter of weeks. The success is also leading to something that poses an even bigger threat - but that is saved for another column. Join us in that different column as we discuss that threat - in 5 days.

Gordon Pepper is the reason that America is against cloning. E-mail him at


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