T Dog’s Think Tank: Dancin’ On The Graves

CBS’ “press release” sounds awfully familiar to letter Merlin Media sent to them last year

It appears CBS has borrowed a trick from Randy Michaels’ playbook.

On the heels of CBS unsuccessfully trying to stop ABC from airing Big Brother rip-off Glass House, The Church Of Tisch sent out a mock press release on Wednesday, unveiling the “upcoming launch of an exciting, groundbreaking, and completely original new reality program called Dancing On The Stars“, which is a play in ABC’s hit show Dancing With The Stars.

The new program plans to “broadcast live from the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, and will feature moderately famous and sort of well-known people you almost recognize competing for big prizes by dancing on the graves of some of Hollywood’s most iconic and well-beloved stars of stage and screen. ” (To read the full “press release”, click here.)

CBS has filed suit against ABC for proceeding with Glass House, alleging the network violated copyright law by copying Big Brother, stating the concept of the series – a group of strangers living with each other competing in challenges – is similar to their long-running reality hit, which has aired every summer since 2000 (plus a not-too-well-received 2008 Winter edition due to the Writer’s strike.)

A U.S. District Judge said last week that CBS is unlikely to win in its lawsuit against ABC over Glass House, saying reality TV show ideas are hard to copyright, given the unpredictable nature of such programming. CBS says there are thirty former Big Brother staffers working on the show, and claim some of them violate confidentiality agreements.

The lawsuit is rather pointless. Media has been ripping off each other since the beginning of time. For example, remember when ABC introduced Webster back in 1983 and critics said it was a ripoff off NBC’s Diff’rent Strokes? Or when animated first-run sitcom Wait ‘Til Your Father Gets Home was compared a lot to CBS’ All in the Family?

But back to that press release… First of all, it is funny. Well, sort of. But didn’t CBS send a cease-and-desist letter to Merlin Media last year regarding the use of the name Fresh – the moniker it used for its then-AC outlet on WCFS-FM (105.9)? Merlin used the phrase “fresh and new” to describe the Hot AC format it temporarily installed on WKQX for two weeks in transition from Alternative Rock to the all-news format it launched last July 30. CBS said Merlin Media was infringing on its copyright by using the Fresh name (the complaint never went to court.)

Though technically not a press release, Merlin sent a letter of rebuttal to CBS penned by “The Merlin Marlin”, the official mascot of Merlin Media (you mean it’s not Rod Blagoveich?) regarding other Chicago-area business who use the word Fresh (not to mention a 1985 hit for Kool & The Gang.)

And who is the CEO of Merlin Media? You guessed it…Randy Michaels.

Of course, WCFS dropped Fresh on August 1 last year to blunt the impact of Merlin’s plan to go all-news format by simulcasting WBBM-AM (both are owned by CBS.) And it flipped at 8:10 a.m., so Mayor Rahm Emmanuel can “push the button” to make the change official in nothing more than a glorified publicity stunt. And all of this to compete with a station that still hasn’t found an audience.

And so, The Church Of Tisch decides to mock ABC’s new Glass House in the same way CBS was mocked by Merlin last summer. You’d think The Church Of Tisch hired the Court Jester himself to write the press release.

At the end of the release, a CBS spokesperson is quoted as saying “After all, people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.”, a direct reference to ABC’s Glass House.

And neither should hypocrites.

Maybe The Church Of Tisch should heed its own advice and not stoop to Randy Michaels’ level of handling matters.