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Is ‘Treasure Hunters’ copying ‘Amazing Race’?

Plus: Whatever happened to A&E's ‘Family Plots’?
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It's that time: The summer reality shows are kicking into gear, with "Big Brother: All-Stars" starting up, and "Project Runway" and "The Contender" about to begin.

We start off this week with two questions about NBC's new summer show "Treasure Hunters." Looking for past questions and answers? Check .

Q: I watched the premiere of “Treasure Hunters”  and I have to know: why does this show concept not infringe on the property rights of my other favorite show, CBS’ “Amazing Race”? The shows are quite similar, especially when you compare “Treasure Hunters” to the original Season 1 concept of “Amazing Race” (where contestants more so got “clues” on where to go rather than outright instructions).    –Mike

A: Welcome to the world of television. “Treasure Hunters” is definitely similar to “The Amazing Race,” although there are significant differences, as you note.  Primarily, the teams must figure out complex clues to find their next location; the race is a puzzle, rather than a race with puzzles along the way. There are also teams of three, and both travel and money aren’t really a concern for the teams.

The borrowing of ideas has occurred for years, whether the shows were part of the rash of “Friends” and “Seinfeld” clones or reality TV shows that borrowed from “The Real World.” Most of the best reality shows today have, in fact, evolved from an adapted earlier concepts. “Project Runway” is similar to “The Apprentice,” “Laguna Beach” has its roots in “The Real World,” and “American Idol” borrows from predecessors such as “Star Search.”

A few years ago, when ABC planned to air a show called “I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here,” CBS sued, claiming the concept ripped off “Survivor”. (As it turned out, the wretched show was nothing at all like CBS’ series.) CBS lost in court, and the judge wrote that there’s “a continual evolutionary process involving borrowing frequently from what has gone before” in television. Ultimately, the best TV shows borrow from and improve on the original, and the ones that do a poor job tend to fade away, as they should.    —A.D.

Q: Is it true that the people who did the “Da Vinci Code” movie had a hand in producing “Treasure Hunters?”   —Stephen

A: “Treasure Hunters” is produced by a lot of people, but one of the executive producers happens to be Brian Grazer, Ron Howard’s producing partner who backed “The Da Vinci Code.” Their company, Imagine Television, produces the show along with Magical Elves and Madison Road Entertainment.

Magical Elves may sound familiar, and it should, because it’s the production company that produces some of the best unscripted programming on television today. Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz also produce “Project Runway,” “Top Chef,” and “Last Comic Standing,” and have produced “Project Greenlight” in the past.

Madison Road, by the way, specializes in product placement. That explains why there’s so much product porn on “Treasure Hunters,” from the close-up shots of the RAZR phones to the billboards that have a company’s logo on it.    —A.D.

Q: What has happened to A&E's "Family Plots", the reality show about real life funeral home owners/ workers? All I can find are old reruns.    —K

A: Sadly, the quirkly entertaining show about life and death at the family-run Poway-Bernardo Mortuary was canceled last November. At the time, there were rumors that other networks might pick up the show, but nothing happened on that front. Season one of the show is

Fans who want to keep up with the cast should check out the Web sites of funeral director (nothing much on the site, but you can email him) and funeral director/embalmer apprentice .    —G.F.C.

Gael Fashingbauer Cooper is's Television Editor. is a writer and teacher who publishes , a daily summary of reality TV news.