Family resemblance

Has anyone else noticed how much broadcast TV is starting to look like cable? If imitation is flattery, then cable should be getting a dozen roses and a thank-you card any day now. For years, it has been the other way around, with cable trading in, and on, broadcasters' wares.

HBO has Sopranos; CBS tried Falcone. MTV has Real World; CBS has Survivor and now Big Brother. E! has Howard Stern; broadcast syndication has Howard Stern. Cindy Margolis is coming to syndication in a late-night show that is sort of MTV's Spring Break for all seasons. Networks are stripping shows or rerunning them in the same week. And if you take a gritty drama, mix in a sitcom and add a dash of Tiger on the 18th hole, the salty language is approaching that of cable as well.

It was bound to happen. With cable and broadcast increasingly under the same corporate umbrella (MTV may have Real World and CBS Big Brother, but Viacom has them both), cross-promotion broke new ground. Could cross-pollination be far behind? The trend is inevitable and may even be healthy, strengthening the line and maybe even producing a hybrid that is better than either.