When it comes to new music reality shows, maybe Fox, instead of remembering a song's lyrics, should just hum a few bars.
After NBC announced that it would debut "The Singing Bee," where contestants would compete to remember song lyrics, this summer, Fox then announced a similar show, "Don't Forget the Lyrics." (Fox said the show had been in the works for some time.) Fox was to air its show weeks before the NBC show.
Not to be outdone - as well as keeping people busy this summer -- NBC has now said it would start its show July 10, a day before the Fox show is to launch.
If this sounds familiar, it should. Fox has been at the center of a few copycat shows -- but the shoe is now on the other foot.
Some three years ago, a number of reality programs were announced first by other networks, only to have Fox debut a similar show before the other network programs ran.
There were reality boxing shows (Fox's "The Next Great Champ" vs. NBC's "The Contender"); nanny-help programs (Fox's "Nanny 911" vs. ABC's "Supernanny"); jury-like contests (Fox's "The Chamber" vs. ABC's "The Chair"); and domestic swapping efforts (Fox's "Trading Spouses" vs. ABC's "Wife Swap").
What's so important about being first? Usually the first of anything -- if successful -- grabs viewers' hard-to-claim attention, and is thus declared the industry leader. All other shows that come after seem like... well, copycats.
Networks are looking for any edge this summer. The reality show battle over singing comes in a TV summer period that has been -- so far -- short on big network reality hits.
But NBC's one-day jump over Fox may not be enough. Viewers might not get the drift. If anything, they might be confused about a similar show with a different name on the following day.
The dueling shows might just blow each other up. Far less likely: The dual marketing efforts will create two relative winners. Case in point: Look at the four reality shows of the copycat wars that have remained.
After three years on the schedule, ABC's "Supernanny" and "Wife Swap" remain as utility prime-time players -- floating in and out of the schedule in somewhat non-crucial, non-sweep time periods. Fox's "Trading Spouses" and "Nanny 911" also have their places on the schedule.
None of the four shows - which are cheap to produce-- have really stood out over the other.
That puts "The Singing Bee" and "Don't Forget the Lyrics" in some stable, but not high-note, arena -- probably to be sung so-low or forgotten.