Philosophers, physicists, mathematicians, logicians, and electrical engineers each have their own phenomenon that they’ve dubbed duality. Over the last several years, I’ve noticed a phenomenon that I’ll call television (and movie) duality.

Stated in its simplest form, television duality is the tendency of television shows to be released nearly concurrently by different studios in supiciously similar pairs. I’m having trouble recalling and previous examples, but I recently spotted a dual pair and decided to watch an episode of each so that I could compare and contrast. Today’s dual pair is: The Singing Bee [NBC] and Don’t Forget the Lyrics [FOX].

Both shows are part trivia contest and part talent show and require contestants to fill in the blanks in popular song lyrics karaoke style. They both occupy a time slot right after one of the current season’s reality talent contests. They’re both 30 minutes long.

And that’s where they begin to diverge. TSB is a low-budget sing-off between 6 audience members apparently chosen arbitrarily from the studio audience; DFtL is a high-budget single-carefully-cast-contestant show that was patterned after “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” complete with lifelines (called “backups” as in backup singer) and an exponential prize progression. TSB has a maximum prize of $50k; DFtL has the predictable $1 million purse. TSB is divided into segments each consisting of a different game type and eliminating a couple more contestants; DFtL repeats the same 60 second formula over and over and over and makes use of the obnoxious “find out after this break”.

I would say that overall The Singing Bee is far better than Don’t Forget the Lyrics, mostly because it’s a bit more innovative. Really about the only thingthat DFtL has going for it is Wayne Brady as host. Neither show is worth spending a half-hour of your life on.

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