ABC and CBS’s reality-TV war escalates


ABC moved the season finale of “The Bachelorette,” shown, to the night that CBS was set to debut “3.” (Nick Ray/ABC)
July 3, 2012

The escalating war between ABC and CBS over their respective fame-seeking-narcissists-live-in-totally-wired-house series now threatens to consume both networks’ date-to-mate reality series.

In the latest development, CBS has been compelled to move the unveiling of its new reality dating series, “3,” to July 29 — after learning of ABC’s plan to attack “3’s” originally scheduled July 22 launch by moving its season finale of “The Bachelorette” to that same Sunday night.

Not only does ABC intend to move “The Bachelorette” finale to that Sunday night from its usual Monday berth; it also plans to follow that broadcast with its first-ever live “After the Final Rose” post-finale special at 10.

In February, CBS announced that it had ordered “3,” which is kind of like “The Bachelorette.” Except that on “3,” three chicks will simultaneously kick the tires on the same three eligible guys, to see which one they’d like to select as their made-for-true love.

And on “3” — based on a wildly successful Israeli format — a guy may turn down the advances of one of the chicks if he’d like to hold out for, you know, the cuter one. That does so much to restore the natural order of things and made this series far more realistic than the Disney fairy tale that is ABC’s demographic hit, “The Bachelorette.”


Rachel Harley, April Francis and Libby Lopez look for love in the new reality series “3” premiering Sunday, July 22 on CBS. (Sonja Flemming/CBS)

On the “3” producer’s Web site is a snippet of the Israeli version, in which one of the chicks goes out on several dates with her guy of choice until he suddenly announces: “It’s not working. It’s not working. You can’t force it.”

“So — you say it’s not working?” the woman responds, seeking clarification.

“No,” the guy explains again, while gallantly resisting what had to have been a strong urge to hit her over the head with a brick.

This thing had monster hit written all over it.

Until ABC began scheming to assassinate it.

Two months after CBS announced its “3” pickup, ABC announced that it had picked up the “Big Brother”-esque show “The Glass House,” in which 14 narcissists shack up in a totally wired house — their every move controlled by viewers — while competing to win a quarter-million dollars.

CBS cried foul and sued ABC, claiming that “The Glass House” violates its “Big Brother” copyright. In its suit, CBS noted that “The Glass House” employs many former “Big Brother” staffers who, CBS claimed, had disclosed trade secrets and had violated the non-disclosure agreement they signed while working on “BB.”

In June, in advance of the show’s broadcast-network premiere, ABC debuted a live stream of “The Glass House,” um, house, so the world could see that the show is not so much a “Big Brother” knockoff as a “Big Brother” parody.

Unmoved, CBS filed a request for a temporary restraining order to halt the ABC show’s production and squash its June 18 launch date. ABC fired back that it had already spent $16 million marketing the show’s launch, adding that a temporary restraining order would “seriously undermine the show’s potential success.”

And by “potential success,” it turns out, ABC meant just 4 million viewers — the number of people who caught the June premiere. Because CBS lost its legal battle to stop the launch of “TGH.”

The 4 million who watched the premiere was about 1 million fewer viewers than watched the “Big Bang Theory” and “Two and a Half Men” reruns that CBS had cleverly slipped into the “Glass House” time slot in the dark of night — replacing the “Hawaii Five-O” repeat that had been scheduled.

While ABC licked its wounds from that skirmish, CBS launched an aggressive propaganda campaign, issuing a gag announcement saying that it had just ordered a reality series called “Dancing on the Stars,” in which D-listers would dance for big prizes on the graves of Hollywood luminaries.

The Reporters Who Cover Television declared CBS the victor:

“Outstanding Achievement in Fake Press Releases: CBS announces ‘Dancing on the Stars,’ ” announced Web site Hitfix, adding, “The network lost the legal battle over ABC’s ‘Glass House,’ but it won the comedy war.”

Meanwhile, Entertainment Weekly marveled, “Check this out — hey, it’s CBS showing a sense of humor (kinda!).”

On Monday, ABC responded with Operation Take Down “3.” ABC put that plan into place on one of the industry’s Take Out the Trash Days, which fall right before a national holiday on the presumption that people aren’t paying attention.

But CBS suits did notice, and on this week’s second Take Out the Trash Day — what with July 4 falling on a Wednesday and all — the network made its scheduling countermove.

To read previous columns by Lisa de Moraes, go to washingtonpost.com/
tvcolumn.

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