Click the remote control a couple of times, and you’re likely to land on yet another show about doctors, lawyers or cops. (It’s even money that any time of day that you turn on the TV, you’ll be able to find an episode from the “CSI” and “Law and Order” franchises alone.) Forget flattery… for networks, imitation is often the surest way to make money. Not that it always goes well. (Anyone remember Rob Lowe’s legal drama “Lyon’s Den”? How about “Cop Rock”?)
Still, it’s not always lawyers and police officers getting the copycat treatment. Here, shows with similar set-ups go head to head to determine which is more worth watching.
Battle of the new girls: CBS’s “2 Broke Girls” vs. Fox’s “New Girl”
It seems wrong to characterize the relationship at the core of “2 Broke Girls” as sweet, considering the raunch it serves up as freely as its waitresses sling hamburgers. Still, it’s the friendship between streetwise Max (Kat Dennings) and former rich girl Caroline (Beth Behrs) that makes this sitcom work – when it does. The problem is its growing overreliance on the aforementioned raunch. On a recent episode, I timed the first such off-color joke… less than 10 seconds. This is especially jarring considering the show airs at 8:30 p.m., when many kiddies are still awake and channel-surfing.
“New Girl” debuted this fall as well, and while the friendship between the “2 Broke Girls” gelled instantly, the give-and-take between the “New Girl” roommates took a few episodes to really develop, with one of the roles even recast (rather clunkily) after the pilot. Like “Broke,” this rookie also can veer into more adult territory, like when Jess (Zooey Deschanel) laughed upon seeing roommate Nick sans clothes. Still, the ensuing conversation, where Jess had difficulty pronouncing a certain word, was one of the funniest scenes I’ve seen this TV season.
Winner: “New Girl”
Battle of the reality show giants: CBS’s “Survivor” vs. “The Amazing Race”
The original “Survivor” (like MTV’s first “Real World”) brought together a group of comparatively naïve individuals who had no idea what they were getting into… except for Richard Hatch, the only one who played the game, the eventual winner, and the man who inspired a generation of reality TV “villains.” “Survivor” has thrived because while its kept the general concept that made it popular and inspired a slew of wannabes, its creators are constantly tweaking the show. Some attempts have been less than successful. (After a trip to arid Africa in 2001, for example, the show wisely returned to more tropical climates.) And how many times do we need the return of familiar faces, whether it be another all-star season or Coach vs. Ozzy? Still, the show still manages to intrigue, 24 (!) seasons in.
“The Amazing Race” has been going strong almost as long as “Survivor,” now in its 20th season. “Race” is less reliant on the chemistry of random strangers, since all racers are paired up in teams with a significant other. Because of this, there’s built-in tension and affection and less back-stabbing. Many of the racers seem genuinely interested in seeing the world, and less motivated by chasing fame. (This isn’t to say that both shows haven’t cast altogether too many model-actress wannabes.) It’s entertaining to vicariously experience different cultures, especially when the racers melt down under the pressure of a tough challenge. “Race’s” weak spot: Airport bottlenecks. Sometimes, it’s a thrilling race to the airport… and then an infuriating wait as all teams eventually catch the same flight. (Runner-up: Those closed attractions, where racers lose hard-earned leads waiting overnight for a gate to open.)
Winner: This one is difficult to call, but I’m going to go with “The Amazing Race,” if only because the self-proclaimed “villains” on “Survivor” are getting a little old.
Battle of the teenage liars: ABC Family’s “Pretty Little Liars” vs. “The Lying Game”
Networks try to pair shows that have a similar audience, and it doesn’t get more similar than this: They’re both about deceitful teenage girls and they’re both based on books by Sara Shepard. “The Lying Game” features Alexandra Chando in a dual role, as twin sisters Emma, raised in foster care, and Sutton, adopted by wealthy parents. Emma steps into Sutton’s life while Sutton searches for their birth mother. Secrets are revealed. Drama ensues. Teens get all angst-y. Harmless enough viewing for tweens and teens.
“Pretty Little Liars” follows besties Aria (Lucy Hale), Hanna (Ashley Benson), Spencer (Troian Bellisario) and Emily (Shay Mitchell). It’s not easy being a teen these days, but imagine how much worse it is for these four. Their friend was murdered and they’re being tortured via text by the mysterious “A.”
Winner: “Pretty Little Liars” is a guilty pleasure, even if you’ve long since left your high school days behind.
Next up: Battle of the matchmakers, musicals and monsters
— Heather Chavez