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Why Abbott Elementary Caused Quinta Brunson And ABC To Be Sued

Since its debut in 2021, the ABC comedy "Abbott Elementary" has established itself as one of the most popular shows on television. An offbeat comedy with a heartwarming and optimistic core, the series has endeared itself to millions of fans across America with its witty humor and clever critique of the American education system. Unfortunately, however, it seems like not everyone is thrilled with ABC's hit comedy, as both series creator Quinta Brunson and ABC were served a lawsuit in July 2022. According to Entertainment Tonight, performer Christine Davis filed a copyright infringement suit against "Abbott Elementary" for similarities to her own show "This School Year."

Davis claimed that she wrote the script for "This School Year" in 2018 and submitted it to a copyright office in 2020, and that her show and "Abbott Elementary" share similar qualities. Cited as alleged similarities are the "look and feel of the inner-city school, the mockumentary style, unique plot synopsis, set design, and unique characters." The suit itself summed up all of these alleged damages, saying: "Without [Davis'] permission, license, authority, or consent, [Brunson & ABC] knowingly and illegally used [Davis'] works to create the 'Abbott Elementary' television show."

Brunson has filed for a dismissal of the case

According to the aforementioned Entertainment Tonight report, Christine Davis' "This School Year" would have focused on a New York City public school where a documentary crew has been hired by the principal to assure everyone on the outside that the school is running smoothly (which it certainly isn't). The series would have centered on a "young, idealistic teacher" who dreams of becoming tenured and reforming the school itself. In "Abbott Elementary" the mockumentary crew is there documenting underfunded schools in America (rather than working on an alternate agenda for the principal), though the basic similarities between Davis' lead character and Quinta Brunson's Janine Teagues are easy to see.

We received our first real update on this lawsuit in April of 2023 when, according to Yahoo! Entertainment, Quinta Brunson and ABC filed for these charges to be dismissed and for their fees to be paid by Davis. Brunson and co. claimed, "Starting with reading the very first page of Plaintiff's treatment, it is evident that the concept and feel of the works are wholly dissimilar." One of the main differences they pointed to was how cynical "This School Year" is in comparison to "Abbott Elementary" — specifically citing how the main character of "This School Year" appears to hate her job, unlike Janine of "Abbott Elementary." 

As of the time of writing, no ruling has been made, and it will be interesting to see where this case goes now that Brunson and ABC have filed for dismissal.