For this TV season at least, "Valerie's Family" will still be called "Valerie's Family."
Producers of the NBC comedy series reached an agreement Thursday with Valerie Harper, the show's namesake and former star, permitting them to continue using the name Valerie in the title for the remainder of the 1987-88 TV season.
Under the agreement reached in Los Angeles County Superior Court, Harper's lawsuit to block Lorimar Productions from using Valerie in the title will go to a jury trial by April 20. The stipulation also prevents Lorimar from requesting an extension of the agreement beyond 45 days.
"I've got what I wanted, and I think it's fair," Harper said after the hearing. "My real concern was the long-term misuse of my name. . . . I feel that both sides have come out of this appropriately."
Lorimar attorney Don Engel said he was "reasonably satisfied" with the agreement as well. "Assuming we win the case, Lorimar can continue to use the title 'Valerie's Family,' " he said.
Whether Lorimar would want to use the title beyond the current season is an open question, Engel added.
"We don't know. Maybe it'll be 'The Jason Bateman Show.' Maybe it'll be 'The Sandy Duncan Show,' " he said, referring to the actor who plays the eldest son on the family comedy and to the actress who replaced Harper as the show's maternal figure.
Harper, a four-time Emmy Award winner, was dismissed from her role as Valerie Hogan on "Valerie" in August, following months of squabbling with Lorimar over financial and creative matters. The actress and the production company have charged the other with breach of contract.
After Duncan's hiring, the title of the show was changed to "Valerie's Family." Harper had sought an injunction against Lorimar, claiming that the use of her name in the title could damage her career.
Harper maintained Thursday that she had no wish to hurt the show or Lorimar and was pleased that the agreement might help the company in making a transition to a new title.
"I have dear friends on that show--'Valerie' or 'Valerie's Family' or whatever you call it--I have dear friends and loved ones on that show," she told reporters.
The prospect of a jury trial seemed to be a major factor in Harper's accepting the decision.
A speedy trial would be "a tremendous advantage" and "was a valuable key to our decision today," said Harper's attorney, Barry Langberg.
Harper agreed, adding, "I'm not trying to hurt the show; I'm trying to have the truth be heard."
In Thursday's hearing before Judge Harry T. Shafer, attorneys for both sides continued to battle over their respective rights to the name Valerie before reaching the agreement.
In an earlier court appearance this week, Langberg had pledged to "return to Valerie Harper her name," saying that Lorimar had no right to terminate her contract and still use her name in the title of the show.
Langberg also said that Lorimar's continued use of the name Valerie would prevent Harper from starring in another series that used Valerie in the title.
Lorimar's attorneys argued that to remove the name from the title this season would compromise Lorimar's considerable investment in the show. The current season is crucial, they said, if they are to build up enough episodes to sell into syndication and recoup the $6-million that the company says it has invested in the show beyond the license fees paid by NBC.