Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi Time for Tubby Bye-Bye

By Devin D. O'Leary

FEBRUARY 1, 1999:  Forget Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Undertaker and Hollywood Hogan. TV's greatest mano a mano fight is shaping up to be the Teletubbies vs. the Telechubbies.

Now that the Brit-based kiddy smash "Teletubbies" is firmly entrenched here in America, producers decided it was time to exert their surreal mind control experiment on another unsuspecting nation. Last summer, "Tubby" representatives traveled to Latin America to hawk a Spanish-language version of the show. (Which begs the question, "How the hell do you translate eh-oh! into Spanish?") In Mexico, TV Azteca seemed interested in the idea, but wasn't too hot on the stipulation that the show run commercial-free. Eventually, rival network Televisa picked up "Teletubbies" and plans to debut it in April.

Undeterred, TV Azteca came up with its own brilliant idea for a kids show: Four colorful, fuzzy prepubescents inhabit a make-believe garden populated by big-ass rabbits, spend their days dancing, playing with toys and occasionally watching videos of kids around the world. TV Azteca even came up with a name for these lovable creatures--"Telechobis" (pronounced "Telechubbies"). Three big commercial breaks spaced throughout the half-hour show allow kids to see plenty of commercials for toys, many of which bear a striking resemblance to the ones that the Chobis like to play with.

Needless to say, Itsy Bitsy Entertainment, the U.S. distribution reps for "Teletubbies" noticed certain similarities between Tinky Winky, Po, Laa-Laa and Dipsy and their South-of-the-border counterparts Nita, Toso, Ton and Tis. You know what that means, don't you? ... Time for Tubby lawsuit!

"Telechobis" producer Alejandro Romero asserts that his network's newest kiddy hit was developed by TV Azteca's own "creative team" and is doing "pretty well" in the ratings. Romero also claims that he has "never heard of 'Teletubbies.'" Despite Romero's claims, TV Azteca is likely to be facing off against a "Tubby" legal team very soon. Itsy Bitsy Entertainment are claiming "blatant copyright infringement" and have asked TV Azteca to remove their show immediately from the airwaves. Since the North American Free Trade Agreement went into effect, Mexican courts have been much more sympathetic to copyright complaints. So far, TV Azteca has not returned calls from the Tubbyshysters.

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