Hannah Montana fans are getting the best of both worlds, leaving the less entertaining aspects to the show's lawyers and publicists.
A lawsuit brought against the Disney Channel by an award-winning comedy writer who claims he pitched the original idea for Hannah Montana and was never compensated for his efforts was referred Friday to mediation in the hope that the two sides can cut a deal.
Buddy Sheffield sued parent company ABC Cable Networks Group on Aug. 23, alleging breach of implied contract, breach of confidence, unfair competition and unjust enrichment. He is seeking unspecified damages.
ABC Cable has denied any wrongdoing on its part, but Sheffield, who won a Cable Ace Award in 1993 for the Nickelodeon sketch comedy series Roundhouse, maintains that he pitched an idea to the Disney Channel in 2001 about a series focusing on a seemingly average middle school student who actually moonlights as a pop star.
Sheffield's creation was called Rock and Roland. According to the complaint, the networks seemed interested but eventually passed on the idea. Some time later, the Disney Channel took the writer's concept and fashioned it into the mega-hit Hannah Montana, the suit alleges.
While the sitcom has turned 15-year-old star Miley Cyrus into a tween idol, spawned two hit soundtracks and a sold-out concert tour and made millions for the Disney Channel, network executives "have not paid a penny to Mr. Sheffield, and have refused to recognize that Hannah Montana" was his idea, the lawsuit says.
Sheffield has also written for In Living Color and the Dolly Parton variety series Dolly, according to his imdb.com profile.
In addition to sending the case into mediation, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Reginald Dunn set a trial date of Aug. 26 in case the opposing parties can't reach an agreement.
Meanwhile, the mother of a six-year-old girl who submitted a made-up personal essay in order to win tickets for Cyrus' Best of Both Worlds tour publicly apologized Friday during an appearance on the Today show for the scandal she caused.
Priscilla Ceballos' daughter actually won the contest sponsored by Club Libby Lu, a Chicago-based chain of girls' apparel boutiques, with an essay claiming her soldier father had died in Iraq this past year. The Garland, Texas, youngster was surprised last month with an in-store makeover and Dallas and was awarded four tickets and airfare to a Jan. 9 Hannah Montana concert in Albany, New York.
The family had to scrap their concert-going plans, however, after Club Libby Lu learned that the essay was fabricated.
Ceballos said that she knew her daughter had made up the subject matter and that, when asked by the concert organizer if the story was true, she, having nothing to hide, said no. (The child's father is alive and living in another Texas town.)
"We never said this was a true story. We do essays all the time. My daughter does essays at school all the time. It never did say it had to be true, but [organizer Robin Caulfield] said, 'That's what we expected,'" Ceballos told Dallas-Fort Worth's Fox 4 News on the day her daughter was named the winner.
"We are reviewing the facts in the matter so that we may determine an appropriate resolution to the situation," Club Libby Lu said in a statement before deciding to give the tickets to another child. "Club Libby Lu had no knowledge of the inaccuracies in the essay until 2:45 this afternoon—Friday, December 28. We regret that the original intent of the contest, which was to make a little girl's holiday extra special, has not been realized in the way we anticipated."
But while she may have been fuzzy on the contest rules, Ceballos is clear about her remorse for cashing in on a false story that's all too true for some.
She didn't intend to mislead anyone—she just got caught up in helping her daughter "realize her dreams of seeing Hannah Montana," Ceballos said Friday on Today.
"Instead I brought so much negative attention to my family. Please accept my heartfelt apology and please do not punish my child for my mistake," she said, while also issuing a pointed apology to those serving in the military and their families.
"I just wanted to help my daughter write a compelling story. There is no more compelling story than the struggle and sacrifices of our military and their families…I meant no disrespect. I just made a bad decision which I sincerely regret."