This is what we're down to: CBS parent Viacom(NYSE: VIA) sued Disney(NYSE: DIS) because a reality TV series slated by ABC to air next month was too similar to CBS's Survivor.

Don't worry, folks. CBS lost. So, you'll get to see a B-list of stars compete against one another in I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here after all. The amusing clincher is that U.S. District Court Judge Loretta Preska studied even the most subtle of contrasts before making her decision -- like how a vegetarian celebrity wolfing down a worm paralleled a similar situation on one of the earlier Survivor episodes.

Fact may be stranger than fiction, but it makes for some good viewing, too. PBS documentaries and MTV's The Real World may have been pioneers, but they timed their jump too early to cash in on reality's pay dirt. It was the debut of Survivor three years ago that found network programming executives scrambling to replace dud sitcoms and unmarketable dramas with people a lot like, well, us.

Fidelity gets put to the test on an island (Temptation Island), and contestants try to determine who is sabotaging a game from the inside out (The Mole). If one show tries to make a love connection, another comes back swinging, like Fox's(NYSE: FOX)Joe Millionaire, where the bachelor isn't loaded at all -- he's a construction worker. Surprise! Even General Electric's(NYSE: GE) NBC, ripe with sit-com success, doesn't think twice about putting fresh, pretty faces to the gross-out maximum on Fear Factor.

Years from now, you may look back and wonder if you actually did see John McEnroe taunting contestants strapped in a chair with heart-rate monitors. You did. You really did.

You won't find the networks complaining. Rather than haggle with pretentious celebrities over salaries and residuals, reality TV opens up the casting couch to the anxious citizens of the world with no qualms about humiliating themselves for free.

Never fear. Eventually, folks will tire of the trend, the same way prime-time quiz shows grew thin through overexposure. The Osbournes and Anna Nicole Smiths of the world will no longer shock us. The worms consumed will grow to consume our patience. Fact will play second fiddle to fiction once again. But until then, what's on the tube today? Liars and bachelors and dares, oh my.