Written by: Tom Rieland
Date: December 3, 2012

It’s perhaps the greatest compliment when someone steals your idea. And it’s become quite a tradition –the commercial TV networks watch for successes on PBS, swipe the concept, put a commercial overlay on the programming and market it with more money than the entire PBS marketing budget.

The latest case is the hiring by NBC of the creator of the highly successful Downton Abbey series on PBS. Julian Fellowes will be producing a new television drama called The Gilded Age set in the late 19th century in New York City. Wonder if some network execs have been watching the viewership numbers of Downton Abbey? This closely follows the CBS drama series Elementary, which is a commercial version of the Sherlock series airing on PBS. Sherlock is a modern adaptation of Sherlock Holmes and, not surprisingly, so is Elementary.

The historic list is extensive dating back to 1963, when educational television stations started airing tennis matches, well before we had “Breakfast at Wimbledon.” Then you have Julia Child’s The French Chef that inspired so many other cooking shows and a whole network. Antiques Roadshow, still the number one program on PBS stations, has certainly inspired several cable knockoff shows.

Of course, what PBS stations like WOSU have to offer is something the commercial networks cannot emulate – commercial free programming. I submit that watching Downton Abbey, like watching a movie at the local AMC Theatre, is a wholly different, more immersive, more satisfying experience, simply because there are not commercials every 14 minutes of programming (or whatever the ratio today).  So enjoy continuing to watch PBS and know that the commercial television network programmers are watching too!

  • Ray

    I would love to see this, but missed it. How many others want WOSU to replay it?