By Charles Goubeaud
In the entertainment industry, the threshold between deliberate rip-off and unintentional re-imagining is wearing quite thin… if it’s still there. Considering that it is vital to follow the trends of what is popular in the entertainment zeitgeist, the Back Roads team works day-to-day in order to be the guys who start the trends.
Within the industry as a whole, I’ve seen a lot of abuse of influenced material: Indiana Jones was a cinematic rehash, Inception’s grand plot was stolen right out of a Donald Duck Comic, Asylum has made a whole business off of straight-to-DVD Hollywood rippoffs, and EVERYTHING in the world is a remix. In unscripted television, we see a trend of both formats and docu-series being tweaked and repurposed for other networks. This generally happens when a show is monumental in terms of creativity and viewership; imitators pop-up to give their ‘version’ a spin in the market place.
A lot of people don’t know about the little ‘Easter Egg’ that lives hidden within our Backroads Website. At the following link, here, you can find the ‘log line generator’ that spits out the best of the best unoriginal ideas by randomly pitting shows together. Loglines like these are commonly used within the industry to not only help describe a show, but also to get execs excited about a concept’s potential (Pit any two lucrative shows together and say you have the next iteration in development and they’ll see nothing but dollar-signs). But what is inherently intriguing about this generator is that even though the loglines are ridiculous… their existence presents a duality between larceny and ingenuity. Even though this is unoriginality at its purest form, some of the generated loglines that arise are actually good (and hilarious) ideas… that is if they don’t already exist.
Exhibit A - The logline generator just spat out:
This sounds a tad bit too familiar. Walk into a pitch with this logline and you might just come out with a show like NBC’s Love in the Wild. Returning for a second season, Love in the Wild literally blends the adventurist elements of Survivor with the romantic entanglements found within The Bachelor. With hit shows like Big Brother and Big Brother: After Dark, this is definitely a show within Endemol’s wheelhouse, not to say inspiration wasn’t drawn from Fleiss’ Bachelor and Burnett’s Survivor (which is derived from it’s Swedish counter part, Expedition Robinson).
This isn’t immoral by any means: the fact that successful formats inspire sub genres is extremely common in this industry. Bringing Survivor to the US forever shaped the future of competition entertainment and contrived reality which ultimately influenced a new genre that inspired many subgenres until eventually viewing habits acclimate to this form of television. As for The Bachelor, it changed the perception of dating-reality shows while inspiring imitators and a multitude of format spin-offs allowing for elimination-style formats to have over-arching longevity. These ripple effects that originate from a multitude of shows continue to arouse variety, and consequently, the television industry is able to thrive as an ever-evolving medium.
Of course, there are some bad apples in the bunch.
Take into account the success of Big Brother. It is readily apparent that imitators attempt to snag some of Big Brother’s millions of viewers. Blatant imitation can be seen in Glass House on ABC. In the news recently you may have seen the lawsuit battle where CBS sued to block their rival network from broadcasting the competition series that supposedly stole trade secrets from former staffers on Big Brother. Even though the federal judge decided not to block the new ABC reality series because he thinks it will turn out very differently from Big Brother, this issue indicates that a hit show allows competition to flourish in the industry – whether it’s in good or bad taste.
All in all, we at Back Roads aren’t saying that the industry is built upon crooks that make their money off of knock-offs (even though dodgy producers are out there). Even though coming up with TV-show concepts can be as easy as pressing a button, the fact is that those who can pull-it-off the right way and sell the damn thing will thrive.
I’ll leave you with my Top 3 Favorite Generated Loglines:
So You Think You Can Dance meets Jackass…
Duck Dynasty meets Deadliest Catch…
Wife Swap meets Judge Judy…
Now beat us to the punch and make millions off of these ideas. Happy pitching.