Screenwriters Say That's Their 'New Girl'

     LOS ANGELES (CN) - Two screenwriters sued the Fox Network, William Morris Endeavor Entertainment et al., claiming the "New Girl" TV show is "nothing more than a slavish copy" of their copyrighted work.
     Stephanie Counts and Shari Gold also sued "New Girl" creator and showrunner Elizabeth Meriwether, calling the hit comedy "overwhelming and strikingly similar" to their script, "Square One."
     The writers want a judge to enjoin the producers from continuing to make the show, now in its third season.
     Counts and Gold claim that they sent their script to the William Morris Endeavor talent agency, where Meriwether and the show's executive producer Peter Chernin were both clients. Meriwether therefore had "ample access" to their screenplay, based on Count's real-life experiences after she divorced and shared a bachelor pad with three men, according to the federal complaint.
     "(I)t is apparent there is no possibility the similarities are the product of mere coincidence," according to the 87-page lawsuit.
     Counts and Gold say they wrote a "Square One" pilot script called "Enter Divorce Rehab" in 2006, then spent five years developing the script and sending it to talent agencies around town.
     They say they were "stunned" when they discovered in early 2011 that Meriwether had developed "New Girl," then called "Chicks and Dicks," which was "nothing more than a slavish copy" of "Square One."
     Counts and Gold claims that Meriwether "implausibly maintains" that "New Girl" is all her own work and is based on her experiences.
     The two writers cite numerous similarities between "Square One" and the Emmy-nominated comedy.
     The similarities between Zooey Deschanel's quirky heroine, and other key plot points - including the conceit of a woman rooming with three bachelors after a messy break-up - "illustrates the folly of maintaining that the two works were independently created," according to the lawsuit.
     The works also share a "cynical roommate who is a bartender" and a best friend with virtually the same name (CeCe in "New Girl," C.C. in "Square One").
     Counts and Gold say there is little doubt where the inspiration for "New Girl" came from.
     "Defendants had access to and copied plaintiffs' protected expression in what amounts to theft of Stephanie and Shari's creation," the complaint states.
     The writers say they immediately called a lawyer when they found out about Meriwether's show. They claim that the attorney they retained, who also represented the show's executive producer and defendant director Jacob Kasdan, urged them to take a "paltry" $10,000 settlement.
     After rejecting that offer, the duo say, they hired another attorney.
     Counts and Gold say they were neither credited nor paid for the show.
     Named as defendants are Meriwether and Elizabeth Meriwether Pictures; Peter Chernin, The Chernin Group and Chernin Entertainment; 21st Century Fox and its subsidiaries; Jacob Kasdan and production company American Nitwits.
     Counts and Gold seek compensatory, statutory and punitive damages for copyright infringement.
     They are represented by Andrew Ryan of Century City.