In case you haven’t noticed, the entertainment industry is rarely above engaging in petty behavior. Quite the contrary. Without it, three-quarters of the internet would be a vast wasteland, Charlie Sheen would be unemployed and raving about tiger blood in a motel closet, and computer owners would be hurled back into an era where people got their online kicks from multi-user dungeons.
But while mud-slinging between celebrities is meat and potatoes for countless entertainment sites and Twitter, it’s a rarer thing for TV networks take any cheap shots at one another (that is, ones unrelated to ratings debacles and executive scandals) outside of courtrooms and press conferences and into the public. That’s precisely what happened today when CBS published a parody release about its intent to broadcast a fake show, “Dancing on the Stars,” on its official press site.
The faux announcement openly mocks ABC and its legal argument that its recently debuted series “The Glass House,” which looks a lot like CBS’s long-running summertime reality show “Big Brother” (returning on July 12) is not the blatant rip-off that CBS alleges it is.
“CBS ANNOUNCES DEVELOPMENT OF ‘DANCING ON THE STARS,’ AN EXCITING AND COMPLETELY ORIGINAL REALITY PROGRAM THAT OWES ITS CONCEPT AND EXECUTION TO NOBODY AT ALL,” crows the release’s headline, to the delight of critics and reporters who immediately took to Twitter to point out its existence, adding in so many highly imaginative words, “Oh no they di-int!”
The release goes on to describe CBS’s “dazzling new show” as follows : “DANCING ON THE STARS will be broadcast live from the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, and will feature moderately famous and sort of well-known people you almost recognize competing for big prizes by dancing on the graves of some of Hollywood’s most iconic and well-beloved stars of stage and screen.”
“‘Given the current creative and legal environment in the reality programming business, we’re sure nobody will have any problem with this title or our upcoming half-hour comedy for primetime, POSTMODERN FAMILY,’” says a quote attributed to a CBS spokesperson.
Television networks have been cloning their rivals’ successful series — not to mention their own hits (hello, “NCIS” and “CSI” franchises, this means you) — since the birth of the medium. However, CBS claims that their beef has legal merit because as part of the production of “Glass House”, ABC is using proprietary information from “Big Brother,” ostensibly gleaned from the number of “Glass House” employees that used to work on CBS’s show. CBS’s request for a restraining order against the program was denied by a U.S. District Judge last week, although as of this writing a ruling in the case has yet to be rendered.
Really, though, the average viewer is probably paying about as much attention to this legal battle as they are to “Glass House,” which attracted a piddly 4.2 million viewers for its Monday debut and reportedly lost 700,000 viewers between its first half hour and its second.