Top 10 TV Shows That Ripped Off Other TV Shows

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Originality in Hollywood is, for all intents and purposes, dead. There’s no getting around it. After all, there are only so many types of stories that can be told. That’s why you see so many sequels and reboots, and even some movies released at the same time, featuring eerily similar plotlines. Who can forget the Volcano/Dante’s Peak catastrophe of 1997, which costs hundreds of lives and millions of taxpayer dollars?

Well, ripping off older ideas isn’t just limited to movies. In fact, it’s probably far more common in television than you might expect. Here are the top 10 shows that totally ripped off other shows.

10. The Honeymooners vs. The Flintstones

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This may be the most blatant rip-off on the entire list, considering every character in The Flintstones is modeled after, and sounds just like, the characters on the classic sitcom The Honeymooners. So why isn’t it higher up on the list? Because it’s really an affectionate rip off, and not out-and-out thievery. Plus, you have to give The Flintstones credit for giving the show just enough differences to stand on its own. Of course, who can honestly say that The Honeymooners wouldn’t have been vastly improved if every episode started with Jackie Gleason sliding down a dinosaur’s tail?

9. Sherlock vs. Elementary

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It’s tough to say that any show based on Sherlock Holmes can really be a rip-off, considering the source material has been around for ages and there have been numerous incarnations throughout the years. Heck, even House is supposedly based on the Holmes character. But what makes the production of the new hit show Elementary so fishy, is the timing. See, there’s a show on the BBC called Sherlock, which is absolutely brilliant and has been generating a ton of buzz in America. CBS had previously met with the creator of Sherlock about adapting the show for an American audience, only for those talks to go nowhere. They then turned around, and produced a contemporary Sherlock Holmes show without him, and this one’s got thievery written all over it.

8. Psych vs. The Mentalist

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Psych debuted in 2006 on the USA Network, and has steadily become a backbone of their original programming. It’s about a guy with the uncanny ability to notice the smallest details, allowing him to solve crimes no one else can. Oh, and he pretends to be psychic when the police start to suspect he must be the culprit when he solves a particular crime that he should have no business being able to solve. The Mentalist first hit the air in 2008, and follows a former “psychic” who uses his powers of observation to help solve crimes. Yeah, it’s basically a carbon copy, only Psych is decidedly hilarious. It’s gotten to the point where Psych pokes fun at The Mentalist once in awhile, as when the protagonist casually mentions he’s going home to watch a Mentalist marathon.

7. The Simpsons vs. Family Guy

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Now here is one rip-off that we know people are going to get a bit up in arms about, considering Family Guy has gained a rather huge cult following, while support for The Simpsons, while still strong, has dwindled considerably over the years. However, there’s no questioning that, while Family Guy may not be a direct rip-off, it’s clearly been strongly influenced by the greatest animated sitcom of all time. Seth MacFarlane isn’t exactly averse to ripping off ideas, especially from himself. Both MacFarlane and Simpsons creator Matt Groening have publicly admitted there’s been a bit of a rivalry between the two shows, stemming from the fact that Family Guy has an awful lot of similarities to The Simpsons. We’re sad to tell you that, unfortunately, it’s mostly a friendly rivalry. And here we were, hoping for bloodshed.

6. Big Brother vs. Glass House

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Big Brother is the devil. We just thought we’d get that out of the way right now, because it needs to be said. While some reality shows provide exotic locations to look at or people who have some actual talent, Big Brother is a show that throws caution to the wind and exists exclusively as an excuse to put pretty, obnoxious attention-seekers in a house and have them do asinine things. Somehow this show has lasted since 1999, when it debuted in the Netherlands and was then brought to places like the UK and the US.

Yet despite being such an awful, awful abomination of a television program, ABC decided to rip it off and create Glass House, which is basically the exact same thing, to the point where CBS filed a lawsuit against ABC in May. This has some credence, considering that 19 people working on Glass House used to work on Big Brother.

5. The Amazing Race vs. Expedition: Impossible

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The Amazing Race is generally regarded as one of the greatest reality competition shows ever created. If you’ve never watched it, it involves teams of ordinary people in a race around the world, which plays out sort of like a global scavenger hunt, with obstacles and challenges thrown in along the way. It’s been so successful that, in 2011, Survivor mastermind Mark Burnett chose to borrow the general concept for his show, Expedition: Impossible. In that show, teams of ordinary people race and try to complete several stages in exotic locations and cross the finish line first. Of course, the entire show took place in Morocco, so that takes out the continent-hopping fun of The Amazing Race. Considering Burnett himself has been ripped off numerous times, we suppose it’s only fair he get to engage in thievery once in awhile too.

4. Pop/American Idol vs. The X-Factor

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Pop Idol debuted in the UK back in 2001 and, shortly after, it was brought to the States as, of course, American Idol. It quickly became a juggernaut, both in terms of ratings and revenue. Pop Idol fizzled out in the UK, and The X-Factor was originally designed to be its replacement. Of course, the similarities were so striking that eventually Idol creator Simon Fuller filed a lawsuit against Simon Cowell in 2004, which was settled when Fuller was given an executive producer credit for X-Factor, and the show was not allowed to be brought to America until 2010. If Simon Fuller truly cared about his audience though, he would have spared us from having to witness The X-Factor at all.

3. Kitchen Nightmares vs. Restaurant: Impossible

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When he’s not swearing at overwhelmed chefs, Gordon Ramsay likes to fix up failing restaurants. In fact, he’s been doing it since 2004, when Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares debuted on the BBC, and then was later brought to America as simply Kitchen Nightmares. Every episode is basically the same: he berates incompetent owners and cooks, finds disgusting kitchens, and eats horrible food, only to magically turn things around in a matter of days. It’s an idea that works so well that another British chef, Robert Irvine, chose to take it for himself with the Food Network show Restaurant: Impossible. On that show, Irvine bails out failing restaurants after eating horrible food, finding gross kitchens and meeting incompetent owners and cooks. Of course, he yells a lot less, and works on a budget of $10,000 so it’s, you know, totally different. Though we’re starting to think the creator of Mission: Impossible should look into trademarking the whole Noun: Impossible title trope that appears to be everywhere lately.

2. Wife Swap vs. Trading Spouses

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While Trading Spouses is technically ripping off Wife Swap here, considering Swap got on the air first, we could just as easily point out that both shows are blatant rip-offs of an idea from another show. That show, of course, was Chappelle’s Show. The difference here is that Trading Spouses and Wife Swap are treated seriously, while the sketch in Chappelle’s Show was obviously making fun of reality programming. So basically, not one, but two people sat down and watched Chappelle’s Show, saw that sketch, and thought it would actually be a good idea. And the best part: Trading Spouses even swiped the name of the fake reality show in the sketch.

trading-spouses-chappelles-show

1. Flip That House vs. Flip This House

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Seriously, just look at those names. House-flipping became all the rage back in 2005 because, within a 10-day window, both Flip That House and Flip This House were released and began tricking poor suckers at home into thinking that, if they buy crappy old homes and put a ton of work and money into them, they’ll become millionaires. Because, you know, that’s something everyone can do so easily. Anyway, while these shows were obviously in production at the same time, we’re going to say that Flip This House is the thief here, since Flip That House beat it to the air by a little more than a week.


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34 Comments

      • Good one. I’m saying, a cult favorite is something that’s not too well known outside a specific group of fans while Family Guy is pretty well known to just about everyone, no?I get that when it was cancelled a group of loyal fans (cult) lobbied successfully to get it back on the air, but I’d have to say that since it’s gone on to become one of the biggest animated television shows of all time that it has outgrown it’s cult status.

        • Now i get ya…. i thought you were originally saying that the show had little or no value and was unworthy of its status….. i stand corrected (says the man in the orthopedic shoes)

          But yes originally it could be classed as cult……. Far too mainstream now.

  1. I think that instead of giving “War-criminals,” like Saddam Hussein, Chemical Ali, Radovan Karadzic, Ratko Mladic, and so on, “Trials,” we should put them on Big Brother. We`ve already had “Celebrity Big Brother,” which had Sly Stallone`s mum on, Jermain Jackson and Face from the A-Team, on, so why not have Dictator Big Brother?

    • I’d watch the hell out of that.

      “Saddam never puts the cap back on the soda bottles, and it’s really driving me nuts. It’s just so uncool of him, and whenever you try to bring it up he throws a hissy fit and storms out of the room ranting about golden toilets.”

      • Yeah I`d watch that. And think of it, it is possible. Karadzic and Mladic are still alive. These two loons are recently being tried at the ICC. And now and again they haven`t bothered to turn up at their “Trials.” Like Saddam Hussein couldn`t be bothered going to his “Trial.” And if they were on Big Brother, they couldn`t escape. The Big Brother House could be one of Saddam Hussein`s old palaces. Or better yet, instead of putting tyrants and madmen on Big Brother, why not put them on I`m a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here! I`d love to see these people eating Maggots and Crocodile testicles..

  2. Calling big brother an abomination when in fact it offers more strategy than Survivor and more watching ability than the now-horrendous Amazing Race is terrible. Big Brother has consistency, drama, and big game moves, and although some seasons can be terrible dull (Seasons 1, 4, 9) it can also turn out the most drama-filled three hours on TV per week (Seasons 2, 6, 7, 8, 10, 14)

    • I remember CBS “amazing race” debuted the same time as NBC “lost” not that lost, but a compilation Show that drop contestants all over the world.

  3. “The Flintstones” wasn’t Hanna-Barbera’s only rip-off. What is “The Jetsons” but “Blondie” set in a sci-fi future? They also stole “Wacky Races” from Blake Edwards’ “The Great Race”. And they got the voices for Hucleberry Hound and Yogi Bear (whose name was cribbed from Yogi Berra) from Andy Griffith and Art Carney’s immortal Ed Norton from “The Honeymooners”. (as they did with Barney Rubble!)

    • Garrett Goulet on

      I beg your pardon, but Blake Edwards ripped off “The Great Race” from probably the greatest film about classic car racing, “Genevieve” and Dick Dastardly in my book looks more like auto racing great Graham Hill than the character Jack Lemmon performed in “The Great Race”. Hill, ironically, was best known for his sense of humor off the racetrack k. And how come nobody mentioned that “Lazarus Man” ripped off both “The Man Called Shenandoah” and “Coronet Blue”? And did anybody mention that film Blondie Penny Singleton was also the voice of Jane Jetson?

  4. I was all good and ready to call you an idiot for blasting Sherlock (which is a damn genius show) but I see you are using to blast another show. In that case I commend you. Also, from what I have seen of The Mentalist (not all that much really) there is also an air of Sherlock in this show as well. If you think about it, in every episode I have seen, this guy always seems to know exactly how things went down, much the same as Sherlock.

  5. I got so scared when I saw this, the title being ’10 shows that are a rip off’ and the thumbnail being of Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock). I agree hands down with the fact that Elementary is a copy off Sherlock, what’s with Joan Watson?

    • Ugly Betty is the american version of a long line of LICENSED versions of Colombian telenovela “Yo soy Betty, la fea” (Along with works like the Mexican “La fea mas bella” and Spaniard “You soy Bea”) and it was the first one to stray majorly from the actual story, mainly using the concept in the rough and carving its own path from there; for example, in the original telenovela and all previous adaptations, the main plot is driven by the romance between the titular Betty and her boss Armando, which starts off with Armando running the company into the ground and reluctantly seducing Betty, who has a much higher education level than him, into fixing his mistakes and hiding them from the director’s board, eventually falling for her while the plan unravels, basically, drama. Ugly Betty makes Betty the boss’ sidekick and best friend, and only flirts with the idea of involving them romantically at the end, when Daniel faces the though of losing her, the show has a much more comedic tone and morals of the day.
      Ugly Betty has had two direct adaptations in the shape of “Gogona Gareubnidan” from Georgia and “Heba Regl El-Ghoraab” from Egypt.

  6. I love Sherlock and when I saw Elementary, I got a little suspicious. It does like like they ripped off what makes Sherlock so successful. (Being an update of the character and story.) I’ve been hesitant to watch it, but it’s mostly because I don’t like the look of the guy who plays him. He looks like a skinny Ethan Suplee.

  7. Always thought “That 70’s Show” was a rip-off of “Freaks and Geeks”. Foreman is Sam Weir, Donna is a combination of Lindsay Weir and Kim Kelly, Kelso is a combination of Daniel Desario and Nick Andopolis, Hyde is Ken Miller, and Mrs. Foreman is Mrs. Weir. The only original characters are Jackie and Fez.

  8. I agree that they probably made ‘Elementary’ because they couldn’t get the rights to a direct remake of BBC’s ‘Sherlock’. Also, I adore ‘Sherlock’ and found ‘Elementary’ much less satisfying over all. That said … it doesn’t feel like a rip-off or a remake to me. It feels like every other generic crime-solving serial out there (especially on CBS). It feels more like a rip-off of a dozen other things on American TV than the BBC adaptation. I don’t feel like it’s treading on ‘Sherlock’s toes at all.

  9. The lame U.S. “Office” should not only be on the list. It should be #1. Having seen Ricky Gervais makes Steve Carrel unwatchable. And, as a Mick, I don’t normally care for Brit stuff.

  10. The explosion that would’ve been released if they bashed the BBC’s Sherlock- there are no words to describe it. The star dust particles I’m made of would’ve had a supernova of their own. The world would’ve exploded. The universe’s inevitable heat death would have begun, all because of a bit of badly placed criticism. We’re lucky this didn’t happen. A bit late and redundant, but I love that show to bits.

  11. networks must have spy’s do you recall ABC’s “the chair” versus fox’s “the chamber” game shows and the WB “do over” versus ABC’s “that was then” both shows. About adults going back to their high school days in the 1980’s??

  12. update! CBS “amazing race” and NBC “lost” both debuted on the same night September 2001p.s not ABC’s “lost” p.s.s yeah I need to get a life!

  13. Extremely great posting. I just found your blog post plus wished to point out that I have got genuinely treasured looking your blog post content. Naturally I will be following for your rss feed exactly what expecting you write again immediately!

  14. Man vs Wild vs Survivorman, Naked and Afraid, Man Woman Wild, Dual Survival and the other million survivor shows on discovery

    The Mighty Boosh vs Flight of the Conchords

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