Fresh off scoring six nominations for this year’s Emmy Awards, Quinta Brunson’s charming and funny ABC sitcom Abbott Elementary has now been hit with recognition of a different (and, presumably, less welcome) sort: A copyright infringement lawsuit from a writer who claims that the premise for the series was stolen from her own work.
This is per Radar Online, which reports that writer and performer Christine Davis has sued both Brunson and ABC, claiming that Abbott was copied from a script she wrote in 2018 entitled Our School Year, also about an under-funded public school that invites in a documentary crew to film its various woes, and an optimistic teacher trying to push for reform.
Davis says she showed her script (which she filed a copyright for in early 2020) to producers Cherisse Parks and Shavon Sullivan Wright—neither of whom, we should be clear, appear to have any connection to Abbott Elementary—who told her that they, in turn, showed the script to Hulu (which, like ABC, is mostly owned by Disney). A few months later, ABC began filming on Abbott, with Brunson as both star and series creator.
Davis alleges that the show’s mockumentary style, and several of its characters, bear similarities to her script—although we can’t help but point out, with no disrespect to anyone involved in the suit, that the basic premise isn’t really what makes Abbott Elementary work so well; it’s the execution, the performances, and the tone that have helped establish it as one of the best new comedies of the year. (Also, Janelle James being very mean to people.)
Neither Brunson, nor ABC, have so far issued any comment about the suit. Davis is apparently demanding that “Brunson and ABC turn over all profits they made from the show”; she’ll presumably want some of those Emmy statues when they inevitably turn up in a couple of months, too.