Scott Prendergast said he was shocked when he turned on his computer over the weekend, and saw that his new series under development at Syfy — “Human Relations” — was getting a lot of attention.
The bad part? It wasn’t getting the kind of attention he thought it would.
Amber Benson, who played Tara in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” claimed over the weekend that the synopsis of “Human Relations,” which was announced by Syfy over the weekend as part of its development slate, was awfully similar to an independent film she made with former Buffy co-star Adam Busch, “Drones.”
Benson, in her blog, presented the synopsis of “Human Relations” presented by Syfy, and then the synopsis of her own film, which had its trailer exclusively premiere earlier this year on Syfy.com.
“The whole thing kinda sucks for Adam and I because we poured two-and-a-half years of our life (and a little blood and gray matter, too) into ‘Drones,'” Benson wrote in her blog. “But I feel exceedingly bad for our writers, Ben Acker and Ben Blacker, because this was their baby, ripped from their own brains and transplanted onto celluloid — and now they get to see someone else take their idea and with it.”
The problem is, that’s not exactly true, according to Prendergast himself. The writer and producer of such projects as “Kabluey” in 2007 with Lisa Kudrow and Teri Garr, told Airlock Alpha that the concept for “Human Relations” didn’t come in January after the “Drones” trailer premiered. Instead, it was something he had been working on for quite some time.
“My show has been in development since August of 2008,” Prendergast said. “It was not developed at Syfy — we brought it to them independently in January of 2010. In fact, my show is based on a script I wrote in 1995, based on a job I had in Chicago in 1995-96.”
Even more, many of the characters in “Human Relations” were named after real people Prendergast worked with back then.
That doesn’t mean the ideas of having an office environment where the workers find out their bosses are aliens might not be similar. But it’s not a case of plagiarism, Prendergast said. At least not from his side.
One of the things that bothered him about Benson’s blog was the two synopses she presented that had the online media all a twitter. Syfy described “Human Relations” as “The Office” meets “Men in Black” on a show featuring an “office temp who slowly discovers that his off-kilter and odd-ball bosses at the strange high-tech ‘ad agency’ where he works are really aliens working on a plan to destroy the Earth.”
Benson then presented a synopsis of “Drones,” describing it as “The Office” meets “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” about a “guy who works in an office with a kooky, off-kilter boss/co-workers, who then discovers that he’s really working with aliens who are plotting to blow up the Earth.”
“We know where my synopsis came from,” Prendergast said. “It came from Syfy as part of their [Television Critics Association] press release. What I want to know is — where did Amber’s synopsis come from?”
Some fact-checking by Prendergast and others online, including some posters at Whedonesque where this story originally grew legs, did not turn up any evidence that Benson’s synopsis of her movie existed before her July 31 blog post following the “Human Relations” release.
“I wonder if Amber wrote that synopsis of her movie — based on the synopsis of my show — just so that she could cry foul,” Prendergast said. “Maybe she saw a similarity — she drew a connection because apparently her trailer was on Syfy.com — and perhaps she just made everything a little bit clearer with her word choice.”
Prendergast, of course, can’t prove that, but he added that lack of proof didn’t stop Benson from making her attack against him.
Now with this attack, Prendergast is concerned that Syfy could get cold feet on “Human Relations.”
“I’ve been making indie films for 10 years, and this whole thing is completely crazy,” he said. “You always hear people talking about how the Internet is the wild west, and we are living in the ‘misinformation age.’ I didn’t believe that until now.”
Prendergast does point out that even Benson says she knows nothing about “Human Relations,” and it’s highly likely that his pilot script and her movie are completely different, especially since Benson was not working with him in Chicago in 1995 when he was gathering his inspiration for the series.
In the meantime, a late-night request Monday to Benson’s manager seeking comment is pending return.