Producer Joe Roth and his Revolution Studios are being sued for fraud, breach of contract and misconduct by a producer claiming he was wrongfully cut out of the upcoming FX comedy series Anger Management starring Charlie Sheen. The $50 million complaint, filed by Jason Shuman and his Blue Star Entertainment this morning at Los Angeles Superior Court, claims that Roth reneged on a written agreement he had with Shuman, who originally developed Anger Management into a TV series. (You can read the lawsuit here.) Shuman says he was first brought in by Roth in 2008 as a consultant to examine Revolution’ film properties and evaluate which ones would be suitable for TV series adaptations. Shuman claims he helped develop the sitcom adaptation of the Ice Cube-starer Are We There Yet? and was the one who suggested that Roth should pursue Debmar-Mercury’s so-called “Tyler Perry syndication model,” first implemented on Tyler Perry’s House Of Payne, where a cable comedy quickly amasses enough episodes for a syndication launch. Are We There Yet was done with Debmar-Mercury, but Shuman contends that he wasn’t properly compensated for his work on the show, with a promise by Roth that he would “make it up” to him, including giving him significant backend participation and an executive producer credit, on the next film property they turn into a series. Shuman focused on Anger Management and in May 2011 signed a written producer agreement with Revolution for the project.
Shuman claims he actively developed the project for a year and a half until June 2011, when Roth suddenly stopped any communication. A month later, Revolution announced its Anger Management series with Sheen and no Shuman involvement. When he contacted Roth and Revolution about it, Shuman claims the company refused to honor his deal. “As a results of (Roth’s) fraudulent actions and the breach of written producer agreement to develop Anger Management, (Shuman and his company) have received no credit or compensation and have been damaged in the amount in excess of $50 million,” the suit says. The complaint was filed by attorney Bryan Freedman, who also represents Deadline and its parent company PMC. “Power and greed are legally inadequate justifications for Joe Roth intentionally failing to honor his contractual obligations,” Freedman said. “Our clients selected and developed the idea for a television series based on the motion picture Anger Management and worked for over two years on the production relying on a fully executed legally binding written agreement. When Roth realized he would be giving up a significant amount of his ownership interest to bring in Charlie Sheen, he suddenly suffered a self-induced state of amnesia with respect to his moral, ethical and legal duties. Make no mistake, this lawsuit will serve as a wakeup call.”
Anger Management, which premieres on FX on June 28, is produced by Lionsgate TV, Roth’s Revolution and Evolution Entertainment. It stars Sheen as a troubled anger management therapist. The project is being produced under the 90-10 model developed by Lionsgate’s subsidiary Debmar-Mercury, assuring a significant windfall from syndication sales if the series hits a ratings threshold in its initial 10-episode run on FX.