Terry Louise Fisher, co-creator and supervising producer of NBC's "L.A. Law," has been barred temporarily from active participation in the hit series in the wake of disputes with fellow creator Steven Bochco and 20th Century Fox over the role she will play on the show next season.
Harris Katleman, president and chief executive officer of 20th Century Fox Television Productions, confirmed Monday that the company had sent a letter to Fisher dated Dec. 4 requesting that she cease attending story meetings and "discontinue communications with series personnel" during what Katleman called a "cooling off period" aimed at settling the dispute.
The disagreement evolved from negotiations about a new contract between Fisher and Fox that would make Fisher executive producer of the Emmy Award-winning "L.A. Law" next season, which will be its third.
Bochco said that both he and the studio had favored the move because it would allow Bochco, who currently is the executive producer, to play a less active role in the show in order to spend time on a major, multimillion-dollar series development deal he recently signed with ABC.
"She was the appropriate, logical inheritor of my job, and nothing would have made me happier than to have her take over the job," he said in an interview. "But then certain things got said (in the contract negotiations) that ruffled people's feathers. My feathers got ruffled."
Fisher said the letter from Fox followed Bochco's recent refusal to allow her into a story meeting. "I love the show; I created the show," she said in an interview Monday. "It feels like they've taken my job away from me. It's killing me."
Said Fisher: "I have attempted to perform my duties as supervising producer. I am under contract as supervising producer for this season and next season; I am ready, willing and able to perform those services. There seems to be some sort of interference with my ability to perform those duties."
Bochco, co-creator and former executive producer of "Hill Street Blues," and Fisher, former producer of "Cagney & Lacey," teamed up in 1985 to create "L.A. Law." The show, about the attorneys in a Los Angeles legal firm, premiered in the fall of 1986 and won the Emmy as best drama series of the season. Bochco and Fisher subsequently created the police show "Hooperman" for ABC this season.
Bochco said that negotiations for a new Fox contract naming Fisher executive producer of "L.A. Law" had reached an impasse about 10 days ago because Fisher had demanded both an inappropriately large salary and because Fisher had asked that Bochco not be involved with the show next season.
Fisher, however, said that the issue of Bochco's participation was simply a topic of discussion at one meeting, and that her admittedly "heavy" financial demands were reasonable because becoming executive producer of the show would take away her ability to continue to do feature film or other projects outside of Fox. She added that the salary she had requested was less than that currently paid to Bochco as executive producer.
"It (executive producer) was never a role that I demanded," Fisher said. "I was totally happy to continue (as supervising producer)."
Fisher said she had not specifically requested that Bochco be removed from the show if she became executive producer.
"What I had told them (Fox) was that it was my idea of hell to have all of the responsibility and none of the authority," she said. "If I had all the responsibility, I wanted all of the authority."
Bochco said that Fisher was temporarily removed from the show because the contract dispute, which had been going on since mid-November, had "created an extremely unpleasant environment here in the building (where the show is produced on the Fox lot). You have to have everybody pulling together to make the show work--it's a tough job," he said.
Fisher said that she could not be blamed for any disturbance since she has been barred from participating in the show. She also said she had sent a note to Bochco asking him to meet with her and discuss the situation, but he refused.
Bochco said that the disagreement had come as a "complete surprise" to him and that he had not previously had any creative disputes with Fisher. "To my knowledge, Terry and I have not had any conflicts," he said. "I have always been a real Terry Louise Fisher fan."
Nobody was saying Monday when Fisher might return to "L.A. Law." Her attorney, Stanton Lawrence Stein, was in discussions with Fox about the matter.