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'Top Chef' Lawsuit Accuses NBC, Bravo of Stealing Show Idea

By Brett Snider, Esq. | Last updated on

"Top Chef" is apparently going out to sea. In a new celebrity cruise venture called "Top Chef at Sea," contestants from prior seasons are set to compete on various cruise ships. Bravo describes how cruise guests can compete in "Top Chef"-style challenges and attend cooking demonstrations with the "Cheftestants." But according to a lawsuit, this was all someone else's idea.

Three producers are claiming that they cooked up the notion for a reality-show-meets-cruise event, and that both NBC and Bravo burned them.

When is an idea like "Top Chef at Sea" worth suing over?

They Stole Our Idea!... Kinda

According to TMZ, the lawsuit filed against NBC and Bravo alleges that the plaintiffs approached Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and Celebrity Cruise Lines with a reality show cruise idea. Pitched as "Walk the Plank," 13 chefs would compete in a "Top Chef"-style fashion for the grand prize, becoming the ship's Executive Chef.

According to Celebrity Cruises' "Top Chef at Sea" description, the idea that the cruise line accepted is less of a reality show and more of a passenger-activity program. In fact, Bravo notes that only two to four celebrity Cheftestants will be on any cruiseliner at one time, making it not quite a competition between chefs.

This isn't the first time that someone has sued a major TV network claiming that his idea for a show was stolen. One man sued MTV claiming he had the original idea for "Jersey Shore." The legal truth is, an idea on its own has very little legal protection, and you're unlikely to prevail in court simply because someone else was able to execute where you failed.

Allegations of Racial Discrimination

Aha! But like all good reality shows, there is a twist! TMZ reports that the producers have placed the blame for sinking "Walk the Plank" on racial bias. Two of the producers are African American, and the third is married to an African American man. It is generally illegal to discriminate in employment based on race, but it's unclear how the plaintiffs in this "Top Chef" lawsuit will be able to prove that race was what motivated the networks' and cruise companies' decisions.

Perhaps this suit is part of a larger pitch for a new legal reality show "Top Lawyer."

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