We probably don't even realize how many shows are "introduced" every year, and ultimately fall by the wayside, never to be heard from again. But sometimes a show comes along that influences American culture and other TV shows as well. Here's a list of 10 shows that influenced some copy-cats.
10.) ER (NBC) vs. Chicago Hope (CBS)
Chicago Hope actually came out a day before ER in September 1994, but never became as popular, which is obvious thanks to the fact that ER is actually still a TV show. According to TV, hospitals are always crowded with more guests than capacity should allow, they're hotbeds for everything from gun-toting psycho paths hell bent on destruction to old ladies with STDs, and when it comes to childbirth, the baby will be born in anything that isn't a hospital bed. Got an elevator? Great, call the janitor because he's got a heaping pile of placenta to clean up. The two shows are remarkably similar, right down to Adam Arkin's "I'm a poor man's George Clooney, and on this show, I really mean it" niche. Seriously, he looks just like Clooney, but is just a little bit uglier. So which show ripped off the other? That would depend on which network had the idea first, which we would then assume would mean there was some corporate espionage that went down next, and the rest is history.
9.) Dawson's Creek (The WB) vs. One Tree Hill (The WB and now CW), The OC (Fox), Gilmore Girls (The WB and The CW)
Everyone loves a show about teen angst. Not only did Dawson's Creek make sure to slather all the teenage hormones it possibly could onto a stack of angst pancakes, they also served it with an ice cold glass of "What the fuck are they talking about?" The writers made sure to jam-pack each episode with what they considered "teen vernacular," but really just confused the average high school viewer. But let's face it, if you make a reference to something outside the realm of MTV and VH1, you've probably lost 90% of your viewership. Especially if you're dealing with fans of Dawson and his own private creek. But when this show ended, it spawned some other high-school "hits" that made it big in the ratings. Shows like One Tree Hill, The OC and Gilmore Girls dominated their time slots, plunging girls deeper into the unrealistic fantasy of falling in love with the good-looking "doesn't play by the rules" rebel. Most of these shows deal with the same things; sex, relationships, relationships where characters haven't had sex yet, relationships where characters have had sex but aren't sure how to feel about it, and death. If they traded scripts, it wouldn't be a surprise if each shows crew had literally no trouble at all in making a coherent show.
8.) CSI (CBS) vs. Every Other Crime Scene Drama
When CSI became the most watched show on TV in 2002, CBS figured, "Why not make this into a franchise?" and started their own spinoffs with shows like CSI: New York and CSI: Miami. That's when every other network said "Why not copy them?" and we got everything from NCIS to Bones. While the principle is pretty interesting, it's just like having four or five copies of the same sweater. Yeah, it looks good, but do you really need five? Possibly the funniest thing that resulted from all this is how it ruined our legal system; there's actually a jury-related problem identified as "CSI syndrome" which occurs when juries fail to convict a defendent due to little physical evidence. Uh...oops.
What does it take to make one of these shows? A fearless, experienced leader, preferably with some traumatizing incident in his past so he can have lines like "I saw a crime like this once before, and I swore I'd never let it happen again. Ever." You also need some hot (and qualified) female assistants, a couple of wise-cracking young hot shots who don't play nice, and some nervous higher ups who can have lines like "You know I'd love to can your ass Mr._______, but god dammit; you're good."
7.) The X-Files (Fox) vs. Millennium (Fox)
The X-Files was a unique show during the 90s when it was so popular. Sure, there had been science fiction shows before it, but other than The Twilight Zone and Star Trek, not too many sci-fi shows were as influential on pop-culture. Usually when a show reaches that level of popularity, plenty of other shows come out of the woodwork hoping to capitalize on its success. Luckily for us, The X-Files was so unique that no one tried to copy it until 1996, when someone did. That person? X-Files creator Chris Carter. Realizing he had struck gold with his first show, he tried to do it all over again with Millennium, which is also about a paranormal minded FBI agent. Only in Millennium, the FBI agent is named Frank Black. See that? Black. That means DANGER! The difference between this guy and Fox Mulder is that Frank Black sees visions of murders and other violent crimes, while Mulder merely believes in aliens and other paranormal creatures through his frequent experiences with them. No surprise, Millennium only lasted three seasons compared to The X-Files impressive nine.
6.) People's Court vs. Every Court Show Forever
Judge Joe Wapner sat at the helm of this show for 12 years, hearing over 2,000 cases. With the popularity of The People's Court came shows like Judge Judy, Judge Mathis, Judge Joe Brown, Judge Mills etc. They all follow pretty much the same format: two parties argue about important things, like who stole the others futon. After a half hour of this, the Judge, who manages to not get caught swigging Jack Daniels out of his or her well-hidden flask, listens in and wonders what the hell happened to his/her life. Then they have deliver verdict which is always incorrect according to the losing party, and everyone goes home happy. Except the losing party.
5.) Sex and the City (HBO) vs. Lipstick Jungle (NBC) and Cashmere Mafia (ABC)
So there you are, just happy that Sex and the City is all over: no more watching it with your girlfriend purely because you know you'll get some action as a reward, and then NBC and ABC crap all over your dreams. That's right, they released Lipstick Jungle and Cashmere Mafia respectively, and guess what? They're worse than their predecessor! Cashmere Mafia was so bad ABC canceled it. Lipstick Jungle is equally awful, but the geniuses over at NBC thought it was a great idea to keep it on the air. Awesome, now we have to deal with at least another season of that tired and boring formula: "A group of sexy and successful friends try to SOMEHOW juggle their careers, sex lives, and their families all while living a blatantly unrealistic lifestyle in the Big Apple." A great spin-off would be about four male snipers prancing on the rooftops who take down these women. It would be a one episode season, but everyone would feel much better.
4.) The Simpsons (Fox) vs. Family TV Shows/Family Guy (Fox)
Think of how The Simpsons has influenced TV shows: bumbling, abrasive over-weight husband/father married to an out-of-his-league wife (King of Queens, Still Standing, According to Jim, Grounded for Life, Family Guy). If they have kids, one kid is a trouble maker while the other is a precocious student or gifted athlete. The dad clashes with the family for a cornucopia of reasons, but everyone's happy when the episode ends.
This isn't going to win us any friends, but let's face it, Family Guy needs to be here as. Seth McFarlane saw The Simpsons and decided he could do it better. Homer Simpsons is fat, stupid and obnoxious, Peter Griffin is fat, stupid and obnoxious. Marge is out of Homer's league, Lois is out of Peter's league. Homer and Marge have three kids, Peter and Lois have three kids, all nearly the same age as the Simpsons although the Griffins are slightly older, with the exception of Maggie and Stewie, who are both babies. We know there are definitely differences; Stewie talks all the time while Maggie has seldom ever made a sound. The Simpsons dog Santa's Little Helper is realistically a dog, but the Griffin's dog Brian is able to converse with a vocabularly that would rival most college professors. The Simpsons relies on jokes relating to the plot, relevant pop-culture, and references to earlier episodes for its humor, while Family Guy uses more absurdist gags to get laughs. We're not saying it's a bad show, but it definitely borrowed from The Simpsons.
3.) Wife Swap (Fox) vs. Trading Spouses (ABC)
When you were a kid, you probably told your parents that you hated them a few dozen times...per week. But imagine if one day you had said that, and then five minutes later some psychopath from another family suddenly replaced one of your parents, and you had to deal with them for a few weeks. Wouldn't YOU feel shitty? Anyway, that's pretty much the idea of these two shows: you switch parents from two "very" different families and watch what happens. But let's be honest, how different are the families? "We took THIS suburban housewife, and switched her with THIS suburban housewife! But here's the twist, this one's family loves football, and this one's family loves soccer! Let's watch the carnage unfold!" It would be way cooler if they took a mom from a family of cops and switched her with a mom from a family of traveling murderer pirates, or a cannibal mom with a family of John Goodman impersonators.
2.) The Honeymooners (CBS) vs. The Flintstones (ABC)
Up until The Honeymooners, domestic verbal abuse was merely talked about, but hadn't yet found its way into pop-culture. That's when Ralph Kramden (Jackie Gleason) stepped in and said, "I'm going to show these Americans that it's ok to hate their wives!" And with that, a genre was born. The Honeymooners has influenced television shows like The King of Queens and most notably, The Flintstones. Fred Flintstone is remarkably similar to Ralph, and the resemblance between Barney Rubble and Ed Norton is visible in each character's dim-witted demeanor and their ability to irritate their friends. And the characters wives put up with their constant scheming on a daily basis. Without The Honeymooners, there would be no Flintstones.
1.) Flip That House (Discovery Home) vs. Flip This House (A&E)
"Flipping" a house means to improve it so you can re-sell it for more money. That premise, while simple (dull), can't be knocked too hard because people will watch anything (The Hills). Flip That House came out in 2005, and Flip This House followed in 2007. And the ideas are pretty much the same. People pick out houses, find out how much they're worth, renovate them, and then find out how much they are worth after the upgrade. Seriously. There's almost no variation between the two. Whichever show you watch really just comes down to your preference for the middle word: are you a "That" person or a "This" person? If you said "What's the difference?" then you're not really thinking because you could also have said "What's that difference?" or "What's this difference?" and said pretty much the same thing. We decided this was the biggest rip off of all time because the copying party didn't even try coming up with an original title, you could literally think you're watching one show and actually be watching the other.