Fox’s New Girl is one of the funniest, most fun comedies on network television right now, putting it on the short list with Parks and Recreation, Community, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and not much else. This is a good thing. It’s premise and characters also may have been lifted wholesale from an unproduced screenplay titled Square One, if a lawsuit filed in California late last week is to be believed. This is, potentially, less good.
Here’s the gist of it: According to Stephanie Counts and Shari Gold, they wrote a script back in 2006 that was based on “Stephanie’s real-life experience when she discovered her husband was having an affair, leading her to move into a three-man bachelor pad.” Eventually they, and their script, ended up at talent agency WME, where things all went south rather quickly. Then, in 2011, they became aware that another WME client, Elizabeth Meriweather, was shopping a television script with a logline and summary that sounded “remarkably similar to Square One,” and that script went on to become the hit network sitcom New Girl. Bing bang boom. Lawsuit.
But that just proves one part of the claim, the alleged access to the source material. (You can’t “copy” something you’ve never seen and/or were never aware of.) What of the substance? Well, according to the lawsuit, the differences are “so small and insignificant that they cannot be afforded copyright protection, and are, in fact, nothing more than transparent attempts to hide Defendants’ blatant plagiarism” and “more akin to eraser marks or ink blots on Stephanie and Shari’s creation and cannot be treated as original expression.” Defamer has a fairly extensive list of the similarities in question, but here’s a quick and dirty version from THR:
The complaint offers several pages of claimed similarities. Among them: “both protagonists are awkward, quirky women around the age of 30;” “the plot of both works revolves around the protagonist moving in with three guys;” “the three new guy roommates in each work have identical personality traits;” “the best friend in each work is named ‘CeC’” or has the initials ‘C.C.;’” and “the protagonists are both sexually inexperienced.”
Some of those are pretty vague (awkward, quirky 30-year-old female protagonists ain’t exactly in short supply), but some seem a little more damning, if they’re true. And, again, please make note of all the “claims” and “according tos” in this story, as the whole point of a lawsuit like this is to portray yourself in the best light possible and make the other side look like someone who would kick a puppy just, like, because. (Legal tip: Always helps to have a picture of your opponent kicking a puppy.) All anyone knows at this point is that the lawyers are getting paid. Hopefully one of them calls Prince in for a deposition. After all, he’s an interested party now.