A Sitcom With Three Names

It happens. Some shows get re-tooled, for budget reasons, or contractual reasons, and change enough that the network feels the show needs to be renamed.

But why did Valerie become Valerie’s Family? And why did Valerie’s Family become The Hogan Family?

As you can see, it was actually captioned on screen as Valerie’s Family: The Hogans

When it comes to litigious temper tantrums, none this season can compare to the backstage slime slinging between Valerie Harper and her TV bosses at NBC and Lorimar, producers of the sitcom Valerie.

People Weekly, 1987

Valerie marked Harper’s return to sitcoms after the succesful run of Rhoda ended seven years before. Sitcoms were dead. Except that the number one show was The Cosby Show, and suddenly everyone wanted to make sitcoms again.

NBC and Lorimar got together with Harper, and show creators Charlie Hauck, Thomas L Miller, and Robert L Boyett, and they came up with the idea of a working mother dealing with her family during her pilot husband’s long absences.

NBC wanted the hip wit of an MTM sitcom, which Harper bought, while the producers were more accustomed to broad comedy and ABC type schmaltz.

Valerie limped along in the ratings, but slowly began to find its audience, and was enough of a success that after two seasons Harper felt she deserved a pay rise and a more lucrative profit sharing deal.

NBC and Lorimar disagreed.

So Harper walked off, something she had done wih success before on Rhoda. NBC stood firm, publically announcing that they could replace the star of an eponymous show with someone else entirely. They even named that person: Sandy Duncan.

Negotiations continued, and a deal was reached, with Harper returning to the set to shoot the next episode.

The following day, Harper was fired.

Duncan was cast in her place, the Valerie character was killed off between seasons in a car crash, and the show was re-named Valerie’s Family.

Harper sued NBC and Lorimar, both of whom promptly counter-sued. The NBC case was settled, but the Lorimar suit went to court.

The bosses claim the star walked off the job. “Ha!” said Harper. “This star did not walk off, but was fired.” Take that, said Lorimar, suing Harper for $70 million for breach of contract. Take this, said Harper, countersuing for $180 million in damages … Last week the parties met in court for round one of an acrimonious battle that could go on for months.

Lorimar executives claimed that their decision to replace Harper with Sandy Duncan was the result of Harper’s “disruptive” behavior. Valerie co-executive producer Bob Boyett recalled that Harper was “screaming and crying and verbally assaulting various of the show’s creative personnel.”

Added co-executive producer Tom Miller of her one episode return to the set “She lunged towards me, yelling, ‘You were glad I wasn’t here. And you loved it. You loved it.’

Said Harper “They are saying that Valerie Harper is crazy and neurotic and that I was disabled as an actress. I will prove the conspiracy they made to ruin my reputation.” Even sitting on the sofa of her recently purchased home in Beverly Hills, Harper, 47, still seems to be reeling. “This is the worst thing that ever happened to me,” she says. “I feel robbed and ripped off. There’s the feeling that Valerie Harper is this greedy, clutching actress. That’s a bald-faced lie.”


The court agreed.

As part of the settlement, the show was renamed again, to remove Harper’s name, and it became The Hogan Family.

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