17 Rival TV Shows That Aired At The Same Time

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Vote up the best television rivalries.

There is a well-known phenomenon in Hollywood of “parallel development.” Time and again, different groups of writers or producers will be working on films or shows with similar premises at the same time, entirely independently of each other. It's rarely a matter of "copying," but it can still result in suspiciously similar TV shows on air simultaneously. 

Whether inspired by current events or by total coincidence, shows with similar settings, lead characters, or themes can emerge at the same time and inadvertently compete with each other for the same audience, even if they remain distinct in some ways. This has happened many times throughout the last several decades, sometimes producing great competition and sometimes… well, not so much. Here are some of the most memorable pairs of similar rival TV shows that were on the air at the same time. 

Photo: HBO / Amazon Prime Video

  • 1
    170 VOTES

    ‘The Addams Family’ & ‘The Munsters’

    ‘The Addams Family’ & ‘The Munsters’
    Photo: ABC / CBS

    The Addams Family and The Munsters were quite possibly both inspired by Charles Addams's newspaper cartoons, even if the latter tried to change the various family members into slightly different caricatures. Both shows feature a family of spooky humans and monsters, and both poked fun at the traditional "domestic" sitcom format of the ‘50s and ’60s. The Munsters took the format of The Addams Family and combined it with recognizable monsters like Frankenstein and Dracula since the show was produced by Universal, who owned those monster films.

    Both shows ran for two seasons from 1964-1966 before ending, and it seems that the similarity hurt both shows, as viewers could not tell them apart. The Munsters managed slightly higher ratings than The Addams Family, possibly due to being made by the creators of the popular sitcom Leave it to Beaver. The Addams Family continued to become a memorable franchise in the years since, spawning many other films and TV shows, as recently as Netflix's Wednesday in late 2022. 

    170 votes
  • 2
    183 VOTES

    ‘Bewitched’ & ‘I Dream of Jeannie’

    ‘Bewitched’ & ‘I Dream of Jeannie’
    Photo: ABC / NBC

    It's nearly impossible to argue these two shows don't evoke a similar aesthetic, owing to their similar time period and premise. In ABC's Bewitched, a witch becomes a housewife, and in NBC's I Dream of Jeannie, a genie does the same. 

    There were some differences, though. Notably, Samantha and Darrin are married from the start of Bewitched, and the show always focuses on her reconciling her magical abilities and background in the typical suburban world. On the other hand, Jeannie and Captain Tony Nelson fall in love over the series, with the early seasons focusing on Tony hiding Jeannie's existence and the later seasons, once they marry, focusing on Jeannie passing as an ordinary human wife.

    Bewitched ran for eight seasons from 1964-72, while Jeannie lasted five seasons from 1965-1970. Both were undoubtedly successful, though Bewitched commanded slightly higher viewership and lasted longer. Perhaps this was due to hitting the market first, or maybe audiences preferred the simpler premise of beginning with Samantha already committed to hiding her powers within the challenges of daily domestic life. Both shows had an enduring effect on American television, with Samantha's trademark nose-twitch and Jeannie's folded-arms pose that they did to activate their magic often referenced in other media. 

    183 votes
  • 3
    120 VOTES

    ‘ER & ‘Chicago Hope’

    ‘ER & ‘Chicago Hope’
    Photo: NBC / CBS

    This turn-of-the-millennium rivalry is one of the most well-known TV rivalries of all time. Both were medical dramas, with ER focused on the emergency room and Chicago Hope set in a charitable hospital. Beyond that distinction, the shows shared the format of relationship-building and personal drama between the medical staff.

    The rivalry was keen before the shows even began, with CBS moving Chicago Hope's pilot broadcast to a special Sunday time slot to air it the day before ER's. For their first seasons, the two shows aired simultaneously on rival networks, fighting for viewership.

    ER decidedly won the head-to-head Season 1 battle, pulling an average of 19 million viewers per episode to Chicago Hope's 11 million, leading to Chicago Hope surrendering and moving to a different time slot. While both shows were successful overall, with Chicago Hope lasting six seasons until 2000, ER reached mega-hit status with a whopping 15 seasons.

    120 votes
  • 4
    129 VOTES

    ‘Medium’ & ‘Ghost Whisperer’

    ‘Medium’ & ‘Ghost Whisperer’
    Photo: NBC / ABC

    In another unusual convergence of independent ideas, the 2005 TV season brought two dramas from different networks that followed women using an ability to speak with ghosts to solve their problems. In NBC's Medium, Patricia Arquette played the titular medium, who used her gift of communicating with the dead to assist various police departments in solving murders. CBS's Ghost Whisperer, starring Jennifer Love Hewitt, had her assist ghosts with a wider variety of problems, rather than only solving their killings. Hewitt's character would help spirits deal with "unfinished business" that let them find peace and move on to the afterlife. 

    Despite the commonalities, the shows could pull distinct audiences due to the distinction in the “case of the week.” Medium found success as a supernatural spin on a police procedural, while Ghost Whisperer provided more flexible conflicts from episode to episode. Ghost Whisperer pulled higher ratings than Medium when they both began in the 2005 season, though they declined over time, leading to its cancellation after five seasons. Medium kept a more consistent audience and lasted seven seasons, and made Patricia Arquette a TV headliner on top of her film success.

    129 votes
  • 5
    113 VOTES

    ‘Psych’ & ‘The Mentalist’

    ‘Psych’ & ‘The Mentalist’
    Photo: USA / CBS

    Psych premiered on the USA Network in 2006, seeming to be a sort of spiritual successor to Monk by way of the '80s cult hit Moonlighting. This show combined the procedural genre with comedy, as the protagonist Shawn used his hyper-observancy to fool people into thinking he's psychic while assisting the police in solving crimes. 

    Two years later, CBS brought out The Mentalist, with a very similar protagonist: Patrick Jane, also a fake "psychic," who used his elite body-language reading skills to give the appearance of reading minds. Unlike Psych, this show was more of a traditional procedural with a more serious tone as Jane searched for the notorious culprit who eliminated his wife and child. 

    Both shows had long runs, with Psych lasting eight seasons and The Mentalist lasting seven; the latter had far higher viewer ratings, perhaps due to being on a network instead of cable, perhaps due to the more traditional police drama nature. Psych did reference The Mentalist at several points, acknowledging their concurrent airing and similarities with funny jabs.

    113 votes
  • 6
    118 VOTES

    ‘Once Upon a Time’ & ‘Grimm’

    ‘Once Upon a Time’ & ‘Grimm’
    Photo: ABC / NBC

    Fairy tales and folklore have been common sources of inspiration for adaptation as long as TV has existed. However, 2011 brought the odd coincidence of two network TV dramas specifically focusing on classic fairy tales. ABC created Once Upon a Time, a fantasy drama with elements of magic and adventure about well-known fairytale characters transported into the real-world town of Storybrooke.

    NBC's fairy tale show was much darker, with Grimm working as more of a police procedural with a fantasy edge. Protagonist Nick Burkhardt learns he is the latest in the Grimm line and must protect humans from evil monsters known as "Wesen."  Some episodes were loosely based on some of the Brothers Grimm stories, but the dark tone was even more pronounced than some of the Grimms' darkest tales. 

    Once Upon a Time ran for seven seasons until 2018 and regularly pulled more viewers than Grimm during the same time, possibly due to its lighter tone being more accessible for family viewing. Grimm still found its niche and lasted for six seasons until 2017, showing that a similar inspiration can create two very different shows. 

    118 votes