Shameless examples of TV shows using the same ideas, formats, and in some cases, stars.
Friends copied Living Single
Debuting a year before ‘Friends’, 'Living Single’ is basically the exact same premise; a sitcom featuring six young 'friends’ living a footloose life in New York. Living Single featured an all-African American cast, but replace the West Village with Brooklyn, and Bob’s your uncle.
Saturday Cooks copied Saturday Kitchen
Antony Worrall Thompson defected from BBC’s 'Saturday Kitchen’ to make 'Saturday Cooks!’ for ITV. They were completely identical. The latter didn’t last, however.
The Big Allotment Challenge copied The Great British Bake Off
The Big Allotment Challenge was basically Bake Off. But with vegetables. Countryside location? Check. Judging tent? Check. Folksy Britishness? Double check.
Restaurant: Impossible copied Kitchen Nightmares
In which a shouty British chef (called either Gordon Ramsey or Robert Irvine) breaks rubbish restaurants and their owners down before building them back up again.
The Theorists copied Big Bang Theory
The Theorists is an almost shot-for-shot, direct translation – in Russian – of Big Bang Theory, made for Belarusian TV, featuring four nerdy friends living next door to a beautiful blonde waitress. BBT boss Chuck Lorre discovered it and informed Warner Bros about the show, but he was told that as it’s made by the Belarusian government, it’s almost impossible to sue for copyright infringement.
Pan Am copied Mad Men
Desperately trying to cash in on the effortless period cool of Mad Men, Pan Am traded the world of advertising for the world of 60s air travel. Critics hated it, and it was axed after one series.
The Mentalist copied Psych
One’s a comedy-drama, one’s a drama-thriller. Both are the same. In The Mentalist, Simon Baker plays a fraudulent psychic medium helping the police solve murders. In Psych, James Roday is a fraudulent psychic medium helping the police solve murders.
The Glass House copied Big Brother
The Glass House was a reality show about a house filled with cameras, with viewers voting on who would stay in the house and win a cash prize. It was made by a team of former Big Brother staff members, and unsurprisingly, lasted only a season before ABC was taken to court by CBS. They settled out of court and the show was never seen on TV again.
Fifth Gear copied Top Gear
When Top Gear was on its last legs, and the BBC was about to put it out of its misery (pre-Clarkson revamp), former TG presenters Tiff Needell, Quentin Wilson and Vicki Butler-Henderson jumped ship and produced the really rather similar Fifth Gear for Channel 5. They even wanted to use the Top Gear name, but the BBC wouldn’t allow it.
Sunday Brunch copied Something For The Weekend
Tim Lovejoy and Simon Rimmer’s 'Something For The Weekend’ was axed by the BBC in 2012. So off they headed to Channel 4, where they made 'Sunday Brunch’, using exactly the same format.