A harsh judgment

Shandling conduct elicits blast from court

Expressing frustration with what he perceived as a lack of cooperation, a judge lambasted counsel for Garry Shandling at a hearing Monday on the comedian’s lawsuit against his former friend and manager Brad Grey.

The specific cause for the tongue-lashing was a routine discovery dispute, but the tone of the hearing suggested that L.A. Superior Court Judge Ralph W. Dau is more than a tad irate at Shandling for refusing to answer questions at his deposition.

Attorney Bert Fields, who represents Grey, argued that he did not get adequate responses on such topics as Shandling’s hiring of a public relations firm to handle the media during the lawsuit. He also argued that he did not adequate responses from an extensive line of questioning on whether Shandling understood that Grey’s management company, Brillstein-Grey Enterprises, had an ownership interest in his first show — “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show” — and was proposing the same kind of arrangement on “The Larry Sanders Show,” which became a crtical hit for HBO.

Grey was the executive producer on both shows, and the deposition questions presumably related to allegations in Shandling’s complaint that Grey had a conflict of interest because he was acting both as Shandling’s manager and as a producer.

At the hearing, Dau agreed with Fields, describing Shandling’s conduct as evasive. At one point, Dau said Shandling was “doing nothing but blowing smoke” during the deposition.

Dau issued an order at the conclusion of Monday’s hearing, but indicated later in the day that he wanted to rethink parts of it and would issue a revised order shortly.

Conflict alleged

Shandling’s 18-year relationship with Grey ended bitterly when he filed a lawsuit in January, alleging a conflict of interest in that Grey used his position as Shandling’s manager to make TV deals that benefited him and not Shandling. He also alleged that as Grey’s cornerstone client, he is responsible for the success for Grey’s TV production company and entitled to at least 50% of the profits, or $100 million.

Brillstein-Grey has been enormously successful as both a personal management company and more recently as a film and TV production company, with shows such as NBC’s “Just Shoot Me” and a lucrative joint-venture deal with ABC, which has since been dissolved. In 1996, it also sold a half-interest in its TV operation to Universal for approximately $100 million, and there are now ongoing talks to restructure that relationship.

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