New Reality Show: Bickering TV Producers Get Kicked Out

Future growth in the TV industry may be with entertainment lawyers who specialize in suing over reality show copyright.

The latest is the battle over ABC's "Wife Swap," a recent fall season entry and Fox's "Trading Spouses: Meet Your New Mommy," which ran in the summer.

"Wife Swap" producer, RDF Media is suing "Trading Spouses" producer Rocket Science Laboratories for copyright and trade infringement. Daily Variety says RDF is looking for at least $18 million; The Hollywood Reporter said RDF wants $54 million.

Unlike most reality show legal battles, both these shows faired well in the ratings. The burden will be on RDF Media to show there were stolen ideas that resulted in financial damage.

The row between the two shows started in the summer when Steve McPherson, president of ABC Entertainment, said Fox ripped off the "Wife Swap" idea.



Fox was also in the middle of another summer battle when DreamWorks and Mark Burnett Productions claimed ideas from their show, "The Contender," were stolen by Fox who produced "The Next Great Champ."

DreamWorks/Mark Burnett did sue to stop the production - but not for copyright infringement. It lost the suit. But it didn't matter. "Next Great Champ's" low ratings and early exit made the suit a non-issue.

Fox isn't always in the middle. Last broadcast season, CBS sued ABC over Granada TV's "I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here" because it was too similar to CBS' "Survivor." CBS lost the suit.

All this brings us to scripted shows.

There aren't many lawsuits over scripted programming. But that's strange considering all the similar procedural drama shows - the crime scene investigations, the legal dramas, and the straight-ahead cop shows. One would think many executive producers and writers would be having problems.

Maybe the world of fiction is less litigious than the reality world because those writers know that fiction ideas and concepts are regularly morphed and altered on a regular basis. Fictional ideas also take time to develop. But in the still new reality TV world, ideas are not only fleeting, but unlike scripted shows, can be started quickly.

No doubt then what networks need are dramatic legal series about TV producers suing each other.

Calling David E. Kelley!

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