Every Old Reality TV Show Is Old Again This Summer

Originally published on May 30, 2012 5:47 pm
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This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

Network TV is not known for original cutting-edge storytelling, but this summer, it is taking derivative to a new low: A striking number of reality shows are blatantly ripping off other reality shows. The result, says commentator Andrew Wallenstein, is that new has become a relative term and old is getting old.

ANDREW WALLENSTEIN: Have you seen the new ABC series "Duets?" Amateur singers competing for a recording contract get paired off with established pros like Kelly Clarkson.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "DUETS")

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Singing) Let me entertain you. Let me, let me, let me...

WALLENSTEIN: "Duets" feels like a genetic experiment gone awry, a hapless hybrid of "American Idol" and "Dancing with the Stars."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "DUETS")

QUDDUS, HOST:

Give it up for John Legend and Johnny Gray.

JOHN LEGEND: (Singing) Girl, I'm in love with you...

JOHNNY GRAY: (Singing) ...but this ain't a honeymoon.

WALLENSTEIN: "Duets" isn't doing too well in the ratings. And no wonder: Both "Idol" and "Dancing" really declined this past season. And that's bad news for more than just "Duets." Later this summer the CW plans to launch "The Star Next Door," yet another singing competition with celebrities. Now, it's not like "Idol" and "Dancing" suddenly started showing their age, so why are other rival networks even bothering to rip these shows off? That's because NBC scored its biggest hit in ages with a knockoff: "The Voice."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE VOICE")

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Tonight, the battles continue as our four superstar coaches pair their own artists against each other.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: The outcome is going to provide me with an incredibly strong team.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: Here we go.

WALLENSTEIN: When "The Voice" launched last season, it was easy to dismiss it as just another "Idol" wannabe. It's hard to tell the difference between the two except for the celebrities' red spinning chairs. But the success of "The Voice" has given permission to everyone else to try to put a fresh spin on an old concept. No wonder the networks are now trying to imitate their way to another reality hit, one along the lines of those tired dating shows like ABC's "The Bachelorette."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE BACHELORETTE")

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I know I could fall head over heels with one of the guys I have here.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: And what's really important is having somebody in your life.

WALLENSTEIN: The broadcasters are going to launch four different dating shows this summer, three next week alone. One of them even lifts those spinning chairs from "The Voice" for a dating show called, what else, "The Choice." Were it not for "The Voice," the networks wouldn't be so keen to copycat this summer. Let's hope a few failures break their bad habit.

SIEGEL: Andrew Wallenstein is TV editor of Variety. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.