America’s Next Top Lawsuit: Big Brother vs. The Glass House

It's the battle of bad reality TV when Big Brother takes on The Glass House

Credit: CBS

If CBS has its way, Big Brother will be this summer’s only show to feature narcissistic goofballs living in a house full of cameras

Big Brother files lawsuit against the strikingly similar The Glass House

There’s an old joke about television being the sincerest form of flattery, and this has been true since the early days of TV. As soon as one network comes up with a hit, you can bet a competing network has already started working on its own knock-off. 

Not only does it happen with scripted shows (Mad Men spawning Pan Am and The Playboy Club, for example), it’s even more endemic with reality TV. In fact, there are umpteen examples of networks tweaking a few elements of an existing hit and churning out a near-identical copycat, typically followed by a lawsuit or two. 

The latest legal dust-up involves ABC’s new reality show, The Glass House, which involves contestants living together while their every move is filmed for our voyeuristic amusement. If you think that premise sounds a lot like Big Brother, you’re not alone. 

Big Brother vs The Glass House

Almost immediately after ABC announced Glass House, CBS lawyers filed a copyright-infringement lawsuit claiming the “strikingly similar” show is a “carbon copy” of Big Brother that employs 19 former long-time Big Brother production staffers who are divulging valuable trade secrets. CBS asked for an injunction to halt the show’s production and prevent Glass House from airing. 

Within days, ABC fired back with its own lawsuit, imploring the judge to toss out CBS’s “over-the-top” and “meritless” lawsuit. “Even CBS must realize it cannot copyright the idea of 14 contestants living in a house full of cameras,” read ABC’s suit, which also pointed out that The Glass House hadn’t finalized its rules or even built a set. 

ABC’s defense also noted that, unlike the Big Brother people, who are cut off from the outside world like sequestered jurors, Glass House contestants will be able to see what’s going on outside the house, and will be able to interact with viewers via social media. In addition, The Glass House groups contestants into teams, unlike Big Brother, in which everyone battles each other to be the sole winner. 

Speaking of winners, I see four big winners emerging out of this skirmish: the person who wins Big Brother, the person who wins The Glass House, the network that wins the lawsuit, and me – because I won’t be watching either show.

The Glass House premieres Monday, June 18 at 10:01 pm on CTV and ABC.

Originally published in TVW. For daily programming updates and on-screen Entertainment news, subscribe to the free TVW e-newsletters, or purchase a subscription to the weekly magazine.