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From Twincities.com

ABC exec fumes as Fox rips off idea (alias mention)

By Brian Lambert

Thursday 15 July 2004, by xanderbnd

Much as you hate to interrupt a guy on his honeymoon, someone has to step up and call Fox a bunch of thieving low-lifes. At ABC, the job falls to Stephen McPherson.

Without slogging through all the plots, attacks and chalk outlines littering the executive corridors of ABC again, suffice it to say McPherson, who spoke to TV critics in Los Angeles via satellite from his honeymoon in Paris, is now ABC’s president of prime-time entertainment.

In that role, he says, he has the full confidence of ABC president Robert Iger and Disney/ABC CEO Michael Eisner. "Bob and Michael have made it clear that I’ve got at least until August," he joked.

A BC’s prime-time troubles over the past five years are legendary. Only "NYPD Blue" (entering its last season, by all indication) and "Alias" qualify as reliable performing dramas. The death of John Ritter tore a hole in the network’s best new sitcom, "8 Simple Rules," and while "The Bachelor" franchise performs well, it is no "American Idol," "Survivor" or "Apprentice."

Which is why ABC needs "Wife Swap" so badly.

A hit in Britain, the mere title of the show created buzz when ABC announced it would make the fall schedule. (It is another reality show. Two families exchange wives/mothers, and the women learn to cope with someone else’s slovenly husband, noisy kids, etc. The American version is certain to steer clear of anything salacious.)

With the buzz, ABC felt upbeat for a change. Hey, people want to watch something on our network! Cool! But as has become the norm this summer, Fox soon applied the buzzkill.

Out of nowhere, Fox announced it had come up with show called "Trading Spouses: Meet Your New Mommy" and - what’s more - would have it on the air more than a month before "Wife Swap."

McPherson isn’t happy.

"In terms of ripping off or cloning or whatever you want to call it," he said, traffic circling the Arc de Triomphe behind him, "I’ll put it this way: If I was a member of the creative community, it would be incredibly disconcerting to me to know that if you take a show, a pitch, into Fox, and they can’t or decide not to buy it, they will steal it. Plain and simple. I think it’s really upsetting. I think it’s bad for business, and I don’t think its right."

As previously reported, Fox has already ripped off NBC’s boxing show, "The Contender," with its "The Next Great Champ"; "The Apprentice" with "Branson’s Big Adventure"; and CBS’ "Rock Star" (where a competition among aspiring rock singers leads to a gig with the band INXS) with a similar show (untitled) starring the surviving members of TLC. All of the above are rip-offs of Mark Burnett productions, by the way. "Wife Swap" is not.

McPherson demurred on whether Fox’s poaching was actionable. But he is clearly eager to give Fox all possible negative publicity. (Fox executives are scheduled to address these issues later this week.) "Wife Swap" aside, benighted ABC is getting generally good reviews from critics for its fall lineup.

Three shows in particular all look good in their pilot form: "Lost," a drama about plane crash survivors coping with some kind of mysterious creature on a remote, tropical island; "Desperate Housewives," a tongue-in-cheek comedy/drama about intertwining gal pals on a suburban cul-de-sac; and "Eyes" a twisty private-eye number.

As for the pesky detail that ABC’s "The Benefactor," starring Dallas tycoon Mark Cuban, seems an awful lot like "The Apprentice" and Fox’s Richard Branson show, McPherson explains it’s one thing to copy an established hit - that’s showbiz - but it’s something else to swipe ideas before they see the light of day.