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Days after ABC’s “Abbott Elementary” was nominated for seven Emmys, the network and creator Quinta Brunson were both sued for copyright infringement with a lawsuit Tuesday that claims the hit comedy is a “knock-off” of the plaintiff’s own show.
Christine Davis, an aspiring writer, actress and performer, claimed in a suit obtained by TheWrap that Brunson and ABC used the premise of her show, “This School Year,” to create “Abbott Elementary” and did so without Davis’ consent. Davis is seeking damages of an unspecified amount and a jury trial.
The suit says that the shows are “striking and substantially similar” and that the “look and feel of the inner-city school, the mockumentary style, unique plot synopsis, set design and unique characters” were all modeled off of Davis’ original script, which she wrote in 2018 and registered with the copyright office in 2020, one year ahead of “Abbott Elementary’s” debut on ABC in December 2021.
Reps for Brunson, ABC and Blue Parks Productions did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Davis in the suit says that she contacted Shavon Sullivan Wright and Cherisse Parks at Blue Parks Productions in Los Angeles in mid-June and July of 2020 and that she had three different meetings regarding “This School Year.” She became aware that both Hulu and ABC were looking for “Black, female-led comedies” and that she received notes on her scripts.
The suit goes on to say that the two scripts have young teacher characters whose “roles are nearly identical in type” and older main characters who are also “nearly identical.” It claims that even the plots to the opening episodes to both series are very similar, in which the school’s principal usurps the central character by taking her rug.
“Abbott Elementary” in its first season on ABC was nominated for seven Primetime Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Comedy Series, and Brunson was also nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series and Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series.
Radar Online initially reported the news of the lawsuit.