Monday, August 20, 2001
Court Rules ‘Fashion Emergency’ Cable Show Was Not a Hand-Me-Down
By ROBERT GREENE, Staff Writer
Creators of a fashion makeover television pilot failed to establish that the E! cable network stole their idea and turned it into the popular “Fashion Emergency” program, this district’s Court of Appeal has ruled.
Just because the plaintiffs once pitched E! Entertainment Television a program that also was a half-hour long and also featured a hostess and two fashion gurus who turned the average clothing nerd into a fashion god or goddess, Justice Miriam Vogel said, that doesn’t prove that the pilot was improperly copied.
In an unpublished opinion for Div. One dated July 30, Vogel said creators of “Brand New U” could not prevail in their suit, even though a jury returned a $2.7 million verdict in their favor. The Court of Appeal instead upheld Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Richard A. Adler’s directed verdict for E!
More than just a similarity between the programs must be shown to make a case, Vogel said, given the considerable heritage of makeover plots in human storytelling.
“‘Makeover’ is an old idea, not a new one, and there is nothing unique about either [plaintiff Katherine] Brower’s concept or the show ultimately aired by E!,” Vogel said. “For this reason, we reject Brower’s contention that an inference of access and copying arises from the similarity between the two shows. Carried to its logical conclusion, Brower’s proposition would mean that every new dog show is stolen from ‘Lassie,’ every new horse show from ‘Black Beauty,’ every underwater series from ‘Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.’”
Brower thought up her idea for a makeover program in 1992, and a year later worked with Richard Brophy and James Cummins to create the pilot for “Brand New U.”
They hired David Goldsmith to pitch the program to E!, and Goldsmith’s log books showed a Valentine’s Day meeting with network executives in 1994. Another meeting followed two weeks later, but nothing came of it.
Then “Fashion Emergency” aired in December 1997.
The program stars Emme, whom fashion industry trendmakers refer to as a “plus-size” model. Emme and her assistants steer their person-on-the-street charges through a bevy of makeup, hair-care and clothing experts and end up with glamour queens and kings.
A makeover, Vogel explained in a footnote, “transforms a modern scullery maid or man into Cinderella or a prince, using the entertainment industry’s usual magic wands—makeup, hair-styling, clothing, and other ‘appropriate’ enhancements.”
In one “Fashion Emergency” episode, Emme went on-call for a couple living in a nudist colony who had no idea what to wear to re-enter the professional world.
The hostess said on the program’s website that she would like to make over former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno.
“I would love to get ahold of Janet Reno, [and] let her relax,” Emme said. “Let her realize fashion is not a big issue—show her how to take care of herself. I’d take her to all my favorite haunts. We’d get her a manicure, pedicure, facial, mud bath....”
The jury found for the plaintiffs, but Vogel said Adler was right to direct a verdict for the defendant.
“Brower’s conviction that all similarities between her work and E!’s show must inevitably be ascribed to plagiarism is not supported by substantial evidence,” the justice said.
The case is Brower v. E! Entertainment Television, Inc., B143146.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company