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Is Syfy Original Series Not So Original?

Former 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' star says new cable show concept is similar to one she pitched earlier

This story has been updated with a response by "Human Relations" creator Scott Prendergast. More of his response can be found here.

So think of this. "The Office" meets "Men In Black," where you have some lowly office temp who slowly discovers his totally off the wall bosses in his high-tech ad agency are actually aliens working on a plan to destroy the Earth.

It almost seems like the plot for a new Warner Bros. series featuring Marvin the Martian. Instead, it's a new series announced over the last few days by Syfy called "Human Relations," part of its development slate announced at the recent Television Critics Association summer press tour.

Sounds interesting. Except for one thing: A former "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" actress says the idea closely resembles one she's been pitching around Hollywood. And she's looking for an explanation.

Amber Benson, who played Tara in the series, said she and fellow former "Buffy" actor Adam Busch (who portrayed Warren Meers -- a character who met an untimely death after killing Tara) had been working on their own film concept they first unveiled in January called "Drones." In her blog, Benson said there are quite a few similarities between the concept of "Human Relations" and the concept of "Drones."

"'The Office' meets 'The Day the Earth Stood Still' ... is 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," Benson said in her blog about "Drones."

"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 said. "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."

Benson, however, makes is clear she doesn't know for sure if Syfy stole her idea.

"I don't know the guys writing/producing 'Human Relations,' and I have not read the script, so I can't say there is any wrongdoing," Benson said. "I just think it's a bit ... coincidental."

A weekend request for comment from Syfy and parent NBC Universal by Airlock Alpha was pending return.

It's possible that Syfy simply came up with the idea independently (like, you know, the same way they came up with the name "Syfy" independently despite the fact they worked with a popular online news outlet with the same exact name for years). The problem, however, is that Syfy posted the "Drones" trailer last January ... exclusively. Because of that, it would be hard for a concept like this to not hit their radar, Benson surmised.

"It just seems rather odd that our trailer premiered exclusively on the Syfy channel's website in January, and now, six-ish months later, they're making a TV show with an intriguingly similar plot," Benson said.

Scott Prendergast is the co-executive producer and writer for "Human Relations," according to Syfy. Prendergas is an actor, writer and director most recently involved in the 2007 film "Kabluey," according to Internet Movie Database, a film he starred in with Lisa Kudrow and Teri Garr. Also involved in the production are executive producers Michael Rotenberg, Tom Lassally, John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky.

Prendergast tells Airlock Alpha that this concept has been in development since August 2008, based on a script he first wrote in the mid-1990s. For more details on Prendergast's response, click here.

Benson did remind her readers that "Drones" will hit theaters and DVD next March from Phase Four Films.

"Support real indie/alien filmmaking," Benson said.

About the Author

Michael Hinman is the founder and editor-in-chief for Airlock Alpha and the entire GenreNexus. He owns Nexus Media Group Inc., the parent corporation of the GenreNexus and is a veteran print journalist. He lives in Tampa, Fla.
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