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'Trading Spouses,' Fox's ripoff of ABC's upcoming 'Wife Swap,' to premiere July 20


By Reality TV World staff, 07/15/2004 

Fox has announced that Trading Spouses: Meet Your New Mommy, the new head of household swapping series that's made the network the target of idea theft allegations from both ABC and numerous media outlets, will premiere Tuesday, July 20 at 8PM ET/PT.

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According to Fox, Trading Spouses will offer a "fresh take" on the classic fish-out-of-water story, with moms and dads trying out the "ultimate life change" -- ditching their families and taking over of a family from another walk of life. However according to ABC executives, the show is nothing more than a cheap ripoff of Wife Swap, the new fall-premiering series that ABC announced back in May -- with Fox executives rushing their version to the airwaves in an attempt to have viewers believe that ABC is the copycat network.

Fox first announced Trading Spouses in late June, more than a month after ABC revealed Wife Swap during its Fall 2004 schedule "upfront" advertiser presentation in early May. After Wife Swap began to build good buzz among television critics, Fox quickly announced plans for its own version... and an intention to beat the ABC series to the airwaves.

Wife Swap, based on a U.K. reality series of the same name, spent nearly two years in development at ABC, after first being announced in January 2003. In an attempt to prevent viewers from developing improper connotations of extramarital canoodling, ABC had renamed the series to Trading Moms at one point in its development, but later changed it back after realizing that a little controversy might be the best thing that could happen to a ratings-challenged network that's spent the last several seasons mired in fourth place .

ABC also increased its expectations for the series along the way, promoting the series from its originally planned six-episode Summer 2004 run to the desirable Wednesdays 10PM fall timeslot that follows The Bachelor, one of the network's few hit programs.

In its effort to avoid a lawsuit for theft of intellectual property, Fox claims that its show will sometimes feature the husbands switching places instead of the wives (however, note that the subtitle is Meet Your New Mommy, which indicates that "daddy swaps" are not going to be common) and that its show will also have prize competitions -- an idea explicitly rejected by Wife Swap producer Stephen Lambert. Nevertheless, the show's concept is such a direct steal of Wife Swap that its believed that even generally-skeptical federal judges might draw the line, if ABC decides to pursue a lawsuit.

Trading Spouses will be produced by Rocket Science Laboratories, which has become the equivalent of a Fox in-house production arm, with two huge hit shows that failed in subsequent editions (Joe Millionaire, Temptation Island) and a number of lesser titles (the just-cancelled Seriously, Dude, I'm Gay, this winter's My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance and the upcoming The Partner).

Trading Spouses is Fox's fourth reality rip-off from other networks in less than six months. As previously documented, Fox has recently cloned three Mark Burnett reality shows: NBC's The Apprentice featuring Donald Trump with the upcoming Branson's Big Adventure featuring Richard Branson, NBC's boxing competition The Contender featuring Sugar Ray Leonard and Sylvester Stallone with the upcoming boxing competition The Next Great Champ featuring Oscar de la Hoya, and CBS's Rock Star featuring INXS with a yet-untitled show featuring TLC. At least this latest theft disproves the "SOB" (Steal Only Burnett) nickname given to Fox.

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