Trouble on Santa Barbara : a star exits; ex-producers sue

 By Sue Pacter, TV Guide, 1989

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Although NBC's Santa Barbara is still basking in the sun from having won eight Daytime Emmys, including Outstanding Drama Series, there's trouble in paradise : a popular actor has left the soap, and its two former executive producers are waging a legal battle to come back. Lane Davies, who has played attorney Mason Capwell since Santa Barbara's inception in 1984, left the soap in early July. According to Mary Andersen, Santa Barbara's public-relations coordinator : "Lane's on a round-the-world tour (with another former Santa Barbara cast member, Todd McKee, who played Mason's brother, Ted) and we hope he will return in six months." But Davies' return is in doubt. Although this is not the first time he has left Santa Barbara - in recent years, he's taken off summers to perform in Shakespearean productions in Hollywood and Atlanta - Davies has been reported as saying his departure this time is permanent.

Davies was unavailable for comment at press time, but it's been reported that he had not been getting along with his co-star and on-screen wife, Nancy Lee Grahn (who recently won a Daytime Emmy for her role as attorney Julia Wainwright). Grahn says she cried at Davies' last day of rehearsal but that working together "is like being married. You fight like you're married. Both of us are very stubborn." She adds : "You fight and scream and kick. You spend days not speaking to each other." Grahn says Davies left the show because "he was not loving his character anymore." Even so, the show seems to be keeping the door open for his return. Although Mason was last seen leaving town after a dispute with his father, a Santa Barbara insider says the idea of recasting the role is not being aggressively pursued. "The character will remain on the show," says Jackie Smith, NBC's vice-president of daytime programming. "And beyond that we're not telling how - or who will play it."

Smith, meanwhile, refuses to comment on another Santa Barbara controversy : a $53 million lawsuit filed against NBC by the soap's original executive producers and co-creators, the husband-and-wife team of Bridget and Jerome Dobson. The couple is suing the network for allegedly locking them out of their offices and the show almost two years ago.

At that time, the Dobsons were involved in a dispute with New World Television, the production company that owns Santa Barbara. The dispute centered on the soap's head writer, Anne Howard Bailey (who later moved on to Days of our Lives). The Dobsons were not happy with the termination clause in Bailey's contract with New World and wanted to change it. The company said they couldn't. The Dobsons, who had originally owned Santa Barbara and sold it to New World in 1985, said that the terms of the sale left them with creative control over the show, including Bailey's contract. New World said the contract was a business – not a creative – matter, but the Dobsons claimed the sale of Santa Barbara was now invalid and that therefore they were still the show's owners. New World responded by "terminating their services" and then suing them. The Dobsons filed a cross-complaint.

The Dobsons' fight with New World was finally settled out of court last December. Most of the details remain confidential, but as part of the settlement, Bridget Dobson was to return as executive producer - if NBC approved. The Dobsons' suit against NBC was filed July 14 in Los Angeles Superior Court. NBC was filed to move the case to Federal court. The Dobsons declined to be interviewed about the suit. At press time, their attorney, Jim Hornstein, said he was studying NBC's request for a change of venue and had not decided whether to fight it. Whether this suit over a soap turns into a real-life daytime courtroom drama remains to be seen.