The idea for New Girl may have been stolen—the operative word there being “may.” Two screenwriters, Stephanie Counts and Shari Gold, have sued a number of people and companies involved with the show—including Fox, creator Elizabeth Meriwether, and pilot director Jake Kasdan—claiming that New Girl is based off a script they wrote way back in 2006. Counts and Gold claim that their script, for a show called Square One, contains elements that are too reminiscent of New Girl for the similarity to be coincidental.
In their 92-page complaint, Counts and Gold say Square One was based on Counts’ “real-life experience when she discovered her husband was having an affair, leading her to move into a three-man bachelor pad.” The pair shopped the script through agency William Morris Endeavor beginning in 2008, and even suggested the agency pursue Zooey Deschanel for the lead at one time. In 2011, after Gold and Counts had fallen out of favor at WME, a friend pointed them toward a new script that was then being developed under the title Chicks And Dicks— a script written by Meriwether that subsequently became New Girl.
The lawsuit further alleges that Meriwether and producer Peter Chernin had both been given the Square One script by WME agent Cori Wellins, and that Meriwether then rewrote the script for production by Chernin. In 2011, the same year New Girl premiered, Counts and Gold attempted to sue Fox, Chernin, WME, and Meriweather, and were offered a $10,000 settlement by Fox’s attorneys. The two declined the offer, saying it was “paltry.”
As with so many allegations of stolen screenplays, all this might sound a little too devious to be true. But the lawsuit also details a number of similarities between the scripts, including the idea that “both protagonists are awkward, quirky women around the age of 30,” that “the plot of both works revolves around the protagonist moving in with three guys,” that “the three new guy roommates in each work have identical personality traits,” that “the best friend in each work is named ‘CeC’ or has the initials ‘C.C.,” and that in each script, “the protagonists are both sexually inexperienced.”
Counts and Gold are seeking compensatory, statutory, punitive, and exemplary damages. Furthermore, they want to be credited as the true creators of New Girl, have asked that the defendants issue a public apology, and are even seeking an injunction that halts production and distribution of the show until the matter is settled. Fox has yet to comment.
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