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Fox planning its own 'Skating With Celebrities' copycat of ABC's 'Dancing with the Stars' hit


By Reality TV World staff, 06/14/2005 

Perhaps the only thing less startling than an ABC announcement that it has ordered a second six-episode edition of its surprisingly successful Dancing with the Stars summer reality series (an announcement that the network has not yet formally made, but is expected soon) was yesterday's Fox announcement that the derivative reality network is launching Skating With Celebrities, its own copycat edition of the ABC series.

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Copying the format of ABC's unique series and simply moving the participants from the ballroom floor to the ice rink, Fox's six-episode Skating With Celebrities series will feature six celebrities paired up with well-known professional figure skaters. Like Dancing with the Stars, Skating With Celebrities' pairs will compete in weekly elimination performances.

"If it's interesting to see celebrities master ballroom dancing, it's going to be incredibly interesting to see if they can master a double axel and a spin," Fox vice president Mike Darnell told Daily Variety. "Watching a celebrity try to master something this intricate is going to be compelling to watch. We expect a lot of falls and a lot of nerves."

While Fox has fast tracked the production of the series, neither a premiere date nor the identities of any of the participating celebrities have been announced. "You can expect to see the participation of some major names," Darnell teased Variety, while offering no specifics.

Arthur Smith, the Hell's Kitchen and Paradise Hotel executive producer who will be producing Skating With Celebrities for Fox, did admit that the show will be looking for stars who can already skate well, but doesn't think that will be a problem. "A lot of celebrities around town already skate or play hockey," Smith told the Hollywood trade paper.

Fox and Darnell are no strangers to reality TV copycat allegations, and ABC in particular seems to have become their victim of choice. Last summer, Darnell rushed Fox's Trading Spouses copycat to the air before the fall debut of ABC's critically-lauded Wife Swap series. The network also reacted similarly after losing last summer's bidding war for the rights to an American adaptation of the U.K.'s Supernanny series, launching its own Nanny 911 clone that beat the licensed ABC series to the air by more than two months.

Despite the competition, all four of the reality series surprisingly proved to be at least modestly successfully ratings hits, with ABC and Fox each renewing their spouse and child rearing series for second seasons.

Fox wasn't so lucky with its two other 2004 reality copycat series -- The Next Great Champ and The Rebel Billionaire. Launched after it lost the bidding war for the rights to reality producer Mark Burnett's The Contender reality boxing series (a loss that given The Contender's own ratings struggles, might in hindsight be considered a win), The Next Great Champ tanked in its fall debut, eventually ending its run on the media conglomerate's Fox Sports Net regional cable networks.

The Rebel Billionaire, its Fall 2004 The Apprentice copycat that featured billionaire Virgin founder Richard Branson looking for a new employee, also failed miserably. While Fox aired all thirteen episodes of the series despite its horrible ratings performances, it's been speculated the network's contract for the series -- which unabashedly promoted one Virgin product after another week after week -- required it to broadcast the entire series.

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