Somebody wants a piece of Showtime’s Ray Donovan. Specifically that someone is one Brian Larsen, who is claiming that the premium channel lifted his idea to create the hit Hollywood-fixer series starring Liev Schreiber. Southland creator Ann Biderman is credited with coming up with Donovan and is an EP on the Mark Gordon Company show. Not so, says Larsen, though neither Binderman nor Gordon is named as a defendant. In an 11-page breach of implied contract and breach of confidence complaint filed February 13 in L.A. Superior Court (read it here), the seemingly creditless Larsen and his Radical Pictures LLC says Donovan “mimics” his 2009 fixer concept The Swissman. Touting that the series has “enriched Defendants to the tune of millions of dollars,” Larsen wants Donovan stopped via an injunction and is seeking wide ranging but unspecified damages of more than $25,000.
The basic gist of the jury trial seeking complaint is that former Showtime Original Programming VP Danielle Gelber, who is called a “development executive” in the complaint, took a meeting with Larsen on his concept and WGA register script on November 5, 2010. Larsen’s idea was about a San Francisco-based fixer who discreetly handles high-profile clients problems and has a messed-up family – like Donovan but more Northern California than SoCal.
“Gelber was very enthusiastic about Plaintiff ‘s Concepts and promised to take the Concepts to her bosses and ‘pitch like hell’ in an attempt to get Defendant’s on board with the project,” says the filing. Unfortunately a November 8, 2010, development meeting didn’t go so well, and Larsen’s project was passed on. The complaint claims that Gelber soon left Showtime (she’s now a senior exec at Dick Wolf Films) because of the pass. Larson pitched the project to FX that December but, with that going nowhere, soon lost his representation. Now Larsen is saying that Showtime passed his idea over to Mark Gordon’s production company. “After the first season of Ray Donovan, Defendants have made huge sums of money by producing televising shows using Plaintiff ‘s Concepts without compensating or crediting Plaintiff for his Concepts as they committed to do,” alleges the complaint, citing the implied contract concept. Donovan was renewed for a second season soon after its strong debut.
The history of Hollywood is stuffed with stolen scripts and concepts (aka Bruce Lee and the 1970s series Kung Fu), but making claims like Larsen’s and proving them can be very difficult. In his efforts, class action lawyers Thomas Girardi and Graham Lippsmith of downtown LA firm Girardi Keese are representing Larsen.