10 Huge TV Shows That Have Been Sued For Being Complete Rip-Offs

When the little guy stands up to the fat cats.

Sheldon TBBT

Is Hollywood suffering from a lack of originality? It's a question that has bubbled dangerously close to the surface for some time now, but the reboot-mania that currently has studios frantically digging through old properties in search of potential remakes has led most of us to the same conclusion - there is indeed a problem, and it isn't going away any time soon.

The franchise is king right now, and what the powers that be have realised is that they don't need to limit their reach to feature-length films. From classics like Lethal Weapon, Tremors and Ghost to contemporary hits like Shutter Island, Taken and Shooter, the amount of movies currently being developed for TV is staggering. Though where do producers turn when they run out of well-known films to dissect into ten equal parts? To original material, of course.

The problem with putting faith in original concepts is directly linked to the box office success of recent reboots, in that it's harder for studios to put their hands in their pockets to pay for new material when they know that rehashing an old favourite guarantees a return. This (in the opinions of the plaintiffs that sued the following TV shows, at least) is when the studios minimise costs by cutting out the middle-man and passing the work of other writers off as their own.

Plagiarism claims often smack of desperation from those trying to make a quick buck, but some of the lawsuits filed by TV writers this past decade are a lot harder to argue against – identical plot-lines, concepts and even character names being just a few complaints made by scorned screenwriters...

10. New Girl

Sheldon TBBT

Screenwriters Stephanie Counts and Shari Gold caused major headaches for lots of people when they filed a lawsuit claiming that they came up with the concept for Fox’s hit show New Girl, with showrunner Elizabeth Meriweather, executive producers Peter Chernin and Jacob Kasdan, and 21st Century Fox all being accused of plagiarism in 2014.

When Counts and Gold pitched their show Square One all over Hollywood, it was met with high levels of interest, though they were unable to strike a deal to get the show into production. As they continued to search for a buyer, a show named New Girl appeared that they claimed was so similar to their own that even the personality traits and names of two characters were exactly the same.

Square One was based on Counts’ real experience of moving into a bachelor pad with three men after uncovering her husband’s affair. Like New Girl, her script features an awkward, quirky protagonist in her 30s whose cheating ex is called Spencer and whose best friend is called CC. None of this was enough to convince a judge that the idea was stolen, however.

Two years after the suit was filed, US District Judge Stephen Wilson ruled that there were too many holes in it for him to rule in favour of the plaintiffs, adding that you cannot copyright traits like quirkiness, optimism and sexual inexperience as they are too general to be afforded protection. The show will return for a sixth season in 2017.


Phil still hasn't got round to writing a profile yet, as he has an unhealthy amount of box sets on the go.