Monday saw the launch of Quibi, a short-form mobile streaming service backed by nearly $2 billion in funding. The launch in itself was news, as the streamer’s previously faced controversy after its “turnstyle” technology became the subject of a sloppy legal battle.
Now, Quibi’s facing more controversy, this around one of its launch series, the Will Arnett-hosted Memory Hole. Created by Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj writer Scott Vrooman, the series is, per our review of the streamer’s first batch of shows, a fairly tepid look at “cringeworthy” moments in pop culture via vintage footage.
On Monday, the 12-year old found footage art collective Everything Is Terrible!, whose brilliant creations we’ve covered in the past, accused Quibi and Vrooman of plagiarizing their aesthetic, as well as the title itself—“Memory Hole” was the name of a 2014 series produced by Everything Is Terrible! that mangled old VHS clips into new, horrifying creations.
In a post to their social accounts, Everything Is Terrible! juxtaposed their own designs next to the one released by Quibi.
“Looks like Quibi decided to make a show that presents crazy found footage clips and called it MEMORY HOLE (of all the things you could have called it... seriously?),” they wrote. “It’s also deeply disappointing to see our logo from 10+ years ago completely ripped off as the look for the entire show. We’re a small found footage art collective that’s been building a world for 12+ years, and to have a billion dollar company lift our aesthetic without compensation really, really sucks.”
In an email to The A.V. Club, the collective’s Commodore Gilgamesh said that, as of Monday evening, they had yet to hear anything from Quibi itself. They also confirmed that they hold copyrights on the Everything Is Terrible! logos and artwork.
They also shared this statement with Gizmodo:
Our found footage project, called Memory Hole was launched in 2014. It takes home videos, mostly VHS, and remixes it into horror. Quibi is launching a series called Memory Hole that apparently takes 80s VHS footage and remixes it/adds commentary. The name in itself is one thing, but their set design/title treatments is a blatant ripoff of Everything Is Terrible!’s aesthetic. Our original project, Everything Is Terrible!, which was started in 2007, takes 80's/90's VHS/DVD footage and remixes it. Our commentary in both projects is not through a host, but rather through editing. The logo of ours I attached is from 2008/9. Obviously, found video clips are up for grabs as far as remixing/commentary goes, but there seems to be some overlap in that department also. The fact that they made a “new” show in the found footage genre, took the look of one of our projects, and combined it with the name of another one of ours tells me this isn’t just a coincidence.
Meanwhile, Shout! Factory, a producer on the series, replied to a post on Twitter on Monday night by calling it an “original show.” They added, “The name of the show was inspired by George Orwell’s ‘1984,’ and the graphics are based on generic retro ‘80s arcade games. Anything that suggests otherwise is not true. We stand by our work.”
“That’s certainly a response,” Everything Is Terrible! said in a tweet quoting the statement.
Commodore Gilgamesh also told us the team behind Memory Hole have been “deleting comments and posts.” On Twitter, they pointed specifically to an Instagram comment from a few days ago in which Vrooman replies to someone asking if Memory Hole is a continuation of Everything Is Terrible!’s show by saying it’s his “own thing.” That comment has since been deleted.
Vrooman, meanwhile, has acknowledged the controversy only by sharing the Shout! statement on his own Twitter account.
Quibi has not responded to our request for comment.
[Full disclosure: The A.V. Club’s Katie Rife and former Onion employee Nick Moore have collaborated with Everything Is Terrible! in the past.]