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Inside Move: Copycat talker killers

Syndie skeins score with distinctive voices

Humorist Fred Allen once said, “Imitation is the sincerest form of television.”

But syndicated TV has given the lie to that truism of late, says Robb Dalton, prexy of programming and production for Twentieth TV.

“We used to see all of these clones of syndicated shows that were successful,” Dalton says. But lately, “the pack mentality among distributors seems to have gone away.”

Dalton’s memory reaches back to the raft of Ricki Lake imitators — Carnie Wilson, Gabrielle Carteris and Tempestt Bledsoe, among others — who became stars of their own talkshows when Lake hit it big a decade ago and attracted thousands of 18-to-34 women who hadn’t watched daytime talkshows in the past.

All those copycats ended up flops.

But the four yakkers that premiered in firstrun syndication last month are quite different from one another.

Ellen DeGeneres‘ show features low-key humorous observations, Sharon Osbourne‘s trades in high-decibel kookiness, Wayne Brady‘s merchandises energetic comedy-variety and “Living It Up with Ali & Jack” plays off the odd-couple pairing of Ali Wentworth (slapstick frenzy) and Jack Ford (buttoned-down starchiness).

Without going into detail, Dalton says the projects Twentieth is developing have almost nothing in common with this year’s rookie series.

And no imitators have tried to feed off last season’s hit “Dr. Phil.”

Apparently none of the bald, overweight psychologists armed with tough-love principles and booming voices made it past the audition.

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