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Terry Fisher's Side of the Bochco Split-Up

February 23, 1988|DIANE HAITHMAN | Times Staff Writer

Terry Louise Fisher, co-creator and former supervising producer of NBC's hit series "L.A. Law," recalled with a laugh Monday that she and her former partner, Steven Bochco, had once discussed producing an episode about a Hollywood TV writing team who split up and take their differences to court.

The episode never made it to the screen, but it happened to Fisher and Bochco. Only now, in the wake of signing a new three-year television and feature-film development deal with Walt Disney Productions, can Fisher discuss the personal and legal battle that began last November, when she was barred from participating in "L.A. Law" following spats with Bochco over creative issues and with 20th Century Fox over money.

Fisher filed a $50-million lawsuit; a three-month tennis match of insults and innuendo ensued. For legal reasons, Fisher and Bochco could not talk, so everyone talked about them. Finally Fox announced Feb. 5 an "amicable resolution of all disputes" with Fisher, whose association with ABC's "Hooperman," which she also co-created with Bochco, also ended. Fisher announced her move to Disney Sunday.

Fisher said in an interview that she is under a "gag order" from Fox not to reveal the financial details of her settlement ("I'm very happy; I think it was fair"), but she wants the world to understand that, despite the mudslinging that occured, her break-up with Bochco was just one of those things.

"At this point, I've just become terribly philosophical about it," she said. "We did wonderful work together, and it was just a relationship that wasn't working. It's kind of like a divorce; you go through a bad period, then you want to remember the good things.

"The only way I can characterize it now is, it's a relationship like any other relationship. There were conflicts that arose, and sometimes it's just better for everyone to move on."

Fisher never allowed herself to worry that her highly publicized fight with the influential Bochco would result in her being blackballed by the TV industry. "Obviously that's what the other side tries to appeal to (in a legal battle)--that fear," she said. "But I knew I was talented, and I knew that I could make money for people, so I knew I would always be able to work. I just wasn't going to give in to that fear."

Fisher added that she wants to squelch speculation that what happened to her was a result of Hollywood sexism; in fact, she noted that "L.A. Law" is currently looking for another woman producer. The only thing she resented during the legal dispute, she said, were implications that her companion and press spokesman, Charles Bennett, was controlling her career and was responsible for her financial demands of Fox.

"The 'Darth Vader boyfriend'--that was all pretty silly," she scoffed.

"One thing that I don't want women to feel is . . . that they can't take on the big boys, because they'll get you--that was the one thing I was upset about," she said. "Some people think (the TV industry) is an old boys network. I've never thought so. I got a lot of really upsetting letters from women who viewed it that way."

Fisher noted that the most difficult thing about the Fox dispute was that she was unable to work in television during that time, although her contract allowed feature-film work. "Fox was taking a position that they would pay me but not play me, for two and a half years (the duration of her contract), which was very difficult," she said.

"I was a trial lawyer, and trial law is kind of fun. I was beginning to get into it," Fisher, a former assistant district attorney, joked about her legal dispute. "(But) you've got to carry the grievances around with you for all those years. You feel so stuck; you can't do anything creative."

Now, she said, she's looking forward to developing projects on her own. "At this point, I'm really excited about seeing my own vision, for better or worse--to just do it," she said.

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