There are a lot of new television shows making their way to the small screen these days. For the most part, this is good news for people who are looking for new shows to keep up with. However, the new arrival of popular TV shows is not without drama. Some of the most famous mini-series, dramas and sitcoms that are filling up our DVRs these days are also being sued.
Some people claim that the storylines for these television shows are based on their lives. Other people state that they wrote the premise or plot for the television show, but the information was taken from them by a producer or writer with more “pull” in Hollywood. Of course, there are some individuals whose claims aren’t true, but they’re trying to see if they can make a million or two. If nothing else, these people figure they can aggravate the show’s producers or writers so much that they’ll at least get some money to stop being pests. Hey, people have done crazier things.
Whether these shows are fairly being sued, or if there’s no truth to the story that threatens to bring these shows to court, you’ve got to admit that the stories can bring more attention to your favorite small-screen guilty pleasures. After all, as they say in Hollywood, “all publicity is good publicity.”
12. Q’Viva! The Chosen
Remember when former power couple and current business partners Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony produced the reality show Q’Viva! The Chosen? The show involved Lopez and Anthony traveling the world to find the next superstar. A man by the name of John Jacobs sued the former couple in 2013, claiming that they stole his idea, and that he had a show called Miami Beach: The Game with the same premise. Jacobs stated that he contacted the respective production companies of Anthony and Lopez and pitched the idea to them. Both companies expressed interest, but decided not to go with Jacob’s idea. In 2012, Jacobs saw the show, and the theme looked strangely familiar. The following year, he sued the two stars for unspecified damages.
In 2009, producer Anthony Spinner sued ABC, the network that aired Lost. Spinner claims that the network used his ideas and premise for the hit show. Spinner says that back in 1977, he submitted an idea to ABC about a show he entitled L.O.S.T. He says the show was about an Olympic team from the United States whose plane crashed in the Himalayas. He presented similar storylines to ABC in both 1991 and 1994. Anthony Spinner sought damages, as well as royalties and profits from Lost, but his case was rejected in 2013 by the California court of appeals.
10. The Voice
Clearly, The Voice has had its share of drama over the years. From Christina Aguilera’s exit and re-entrance (and slight feud with fellow blonde singer Gwen Stefani), to Adam Lambert and Blake Shelton’s bromance and Sheldon’s real romance with Stefani, The Voice has definitely been in the news lately. A man from Ireland, Michael Roy Barry, has also claimed that the show was his original idea. Barry also sued The Entertainment Group, Talpa Media Group, and Marco Barsato and Roel Van Velsen, who are the judges of The Voice of Holland. Barry says that in 2008, he came up with a show called The Voice of America, a show in which the contestants were judged solely on their voices and not their looks. He is seeking unspecified damages, and says that he registered his idea with the U.S. Copyright Office and the Writer’s Guild of America West.
The CBS series Elementary was a modern take on the adventures of Sherlock Holmes and his assistant Watson. There was also a show by the name of Sherlock that aired on BBC with a similar premise. In 2012, Sue Vertue, the producer of Sherlock, along with Hartswood Films, sued Elementary, saying that it was a rip-off of Sherlock, even though both shows are based on the stories of author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Hartswood Films and Vertue claimed that although Doyle’s characters are public domain, they would be able to sue for copyright infringement because the unique elements of Elementary were similar to those featured in Sherlock. The “unique elements” include modern clothing and settings. CBS also approached BBC about remaking Sherlock before Elementary aired, which gives more validity to BBC’s claims.
8. sTORIbook Weddings
As if Tori Spelling didn’t have enough legal and personal troubles, she was sued by producers Charles W. Malcolm, Jake P. Hall and Denny O’Neil for the reality show sTORIbook Weddings. The producers say Spelling’s show was a rip-off and that they registered their own version of the wedding planning reality show. Tori starred in her variation of the show, along with her husband Dean McDermott. The producers seemed to have had a pretty good case, since they said they registered the idea with the Writer’s Guild of America in 2007, and went to the Oxygen network about the concept in 2009. Spelling was sued for $60 million. The charges included a breach of implied in fact contract, slander of title, false advertising, breach of fiduciary duty, and unfair business practices. The producers also said that they were entitled to have their legal fees paid.
7. Trading Spouses
Fox was sued in 2004 by RDF Media because of a show called Trading Spouses: Meet Your New Mommy. From the title alone, you can see that the show is very similar to the reality show Wife Swap. In the lawsuit, Fox was accused of copyright infringement, as well as unfair competition and trade dress infringement. Fox sold the rights to the Trading Spouses show to CMT, and this marked the end of the series. Clearly, the theme of the two shows were way too similar, so we’re not sure how Fox thought they were going to get away with that one.
6. New Girl
Shari Gold and Stephanie Counts are the writers who sued 21st Century Fox, the network that airs the quirky comedy New Girl. The writers also sued director Jake Kasdan, executive producer Peter Chernin agency WME and creator Elizabeth Meriwether, claiming that the show was very similar to the 2006 pilot of the show Square One. Square One was written by Gold and Counts and says that the similarities of their show and New Girl were “so numerous and specific that independent creation was obviously impossible.” Square One was based on Counts’ real life, when she moved in with three single guys following her divorce. The writing duo is seeking court costs, damages, a jury trial and an injunction to stop the distribution and further production of New Girl.
5. Ray Donovan
Brian Larsen, a screenwriter, sued Showtime, the network that airs Ray Donovan, in 2014. Larsen states that the network stole his idea when he had a meeting with network executives in 2010. The screenwriter claims that at the time of the meeting, Showtime didn’t go with his idea, and decided to air The Swissman instead. However, Larsen asserts that the premise for The Swissman, a series about a “fixer” who is based in San Francisco and handles legal and image issues for affluent clients is very similar to the storyline for Ray Donovan. For instance, the main character of The Swissman has family issues and is based in California. Ray Donovan’s main character has daddy issues and is also a “fixer” based in California (Los Angeles). Larsen requested for the show to be pulled from the air, and sought more than $25,000 for unspecified damages.
4. Cold Justice
Kelly Siegler is a well-known prosecutor from Houston who is known for her two-decade career of securing tough murder convictions. Siegler also stars in the TNT reality drama Cold Justice, and she got the job after leaving the Harris Country District Attorney’s Office in 2008. However, an Ohio man who was acquitted of a murder committed in 1981 sued Siegler for defamation. Law enforcement and TNT were involved in the lawsuit as well. In an August 2014, broadcast of Cold Justice, the Ohio native, Steven Noffsinger, says that he was accused of murdering his ex-wife 30 years earlier. After serving nine months in jail, Noffsinger was found not guilty. The lawsuit suggests that the information in Noffsinger’s episode were portrayed in a reckless way, for the sake of interesting TV. Siegler’s attorneys did not respond for comment as of August 2015, when the case was initially shared with the public.
3. The Big Bang Theory
If you’re a fan of The Big Bang Theory, you likely recall the times that Sheldon sings the “warm kitty” song as a lullaby, or a way to soothe himself or other characters on the show. The descendants of the poet who allegedly wrote the lyrics to the song is suing the show, since the “warm kitty” tune has apparently become pretty popular. Allegedly, a woman named Edith Newlin wrote the song, which was included in a 1937 book called Songs For the Nursery School. The copyright for the poem was renewed in 1964, which meant that Newlin’s copyright was also renewed at that time. The lyrics to the song have not only been sung on the show, but have been used on merchandise (like t-shirts and air fresheners). Warner Bros. claims that they got the rights to the song in 2007 from Willis Music. CBS hasn’t yet commented on the matter.
The popular show produced by 50 Cent (whose real name is Curtis Jackson) is being sued by a guy who claims the idea for Power was his first. Larry Johnson, the plaintiff in this case, claims that in 2005, he completed a script called Tribulation of a Ghetto Kid to Nikki Turner. Turner was an employee of G-Unit Books, which is a company owned by 50 Cent. G-Unit Books passed on Johnson’s idea, and his book was published by another company. However, Johnson asserts that Turner showed the book to 50 Cent, and he used it as the basis for Power. Johnson is suing 50 Cent and Starz (the network that airs Power) for $200 million. Johnson says that he’s basing his case on things like the fact that the main character in Power, “Ghost” has a goatee, and so did his main character. He also points out that the main character in his book has a best friend with a bad temper and owns the hottest club in the city, which are elements included in the Power storyline.
Empire has been a huge hit since its recent debut on Fox. So, it only stands to reason that the show’s fame would come with a good amount of controversy. A man named Ron Newt, who is friends with the Jackson family, is suing Lee Daniels, the creator of Empire, as well as Terrence Howard, who is one of the show’s main characters. Newt says that he met with Howard at a hotel to discuss his documentary entitled Bigger Than Big. He believes that Howard gave some of his ideas to Daniels, and wants credit for the fact that Empire is such a huge success. Details like Cookie going away to jail (the main female character in Newt’s film also goes to jail) and Lucious shooting his longtime friend (the main male character in Newt’s project does the same thing) may mean that he could have a case. However, he wants $1 billion, so we’re not sure if he’s going to get that big of a payday.