IN THE PAST COUPLE OF YEARS, THE networks have introduced a consumer-friendly policy of shop and compare: Why stick with the patented original when a generic product will do? Don’t care for a gritty cop show set in Gotham (NYPD Blue)? Try Homicide, a gritty cop show set in Baltimore. Tired of ER? Try on Chicago Hope for size.
In 1996, the year of the X-Files rip-offs, the powers that be have even gone so far as to introduce a series specializing in aquatic weirdness. Bay-watch Nights now features a character who works for a top-secret organization investigating paranormal phenomena: deep-sea monsters, genetic mutations, David Hasselhoff’s career. Should the program prove as successful as Baywatch itself, it could put ratings pressure on Gillian Anderson to don a skimpy bikini and on David Duchovny to resort to one of those thong-like affairs so popular on the French Riviera.
Still, there’s one thing that’s a bit puzzling about all of these rip-offs: If doctor shows inspire other doctor shows, and the success of Touched by an Angel results in such knockoffs as Promised Land and Early Edition, why haven’t there been any clones of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman? This is a series that has a charismatic star, always gets good ratings and is popular with the kind of audience—mature viewers—that CBS has been trying to lure back after its disastrous flirtation with hipness last year (Central Park West).
Why, then, haven’t we seen Dr. Quinn, Chiropractic Woman, or Dr. Quinn, Sports Medicine Woman? Why hasn’t CBS extended its franchise by placing Jane Seymour in a hospital setting and calling the series Dodge City Hope? And if the network is so obsessed with younger viewers, why hasn’t it green-lighted a hybrid series entitled Dr. Quinn and Her Medicine Friends? Come to think of it, couldn’t CBS have saved itself a lot of trouble last year by casting Seymour in a series entitled Central Park Wild West? Just asking.