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- that is, if it is the right show. The show I laughed at back then had
inserted skits that were completely unrelated to the main story about
Guttenberg running a hotel, such as a spoof on the trailer for a 50s
called "The Day Everybody's Name was Al". The captions read for instance
"The Most Terrifying Film", and, true to 50s film clichées, one of the
would be blown up on the screen - but in this skit, they would send
irrelevant adverbs flying into our faces, such as "MOST" in the caption
mentioned above. I was sick with laughter. I also recall another skit
a guy applying for a job in a hat firm where the manager was just a head.
The interview contained remarks such as "I think the hat is the most
important piece of clothing, don't you?" His secretary, too, was only a
(she typed with her nose), and at the end of the skit, the manager sneezed
and was catapulted back into the waste paper basket. I'm sorry, but I was
stitches. I also recall something about a man-eating armchair.
I'd love to find that series somewhere again... hm. I think I shall try e-bay...
The plot of "No Soap Radio" involves a man inheriting a broken-down
hotel in Atlantic City which has been in his family for three
generations, and trying to make it into a successful business venture.
Along the way, has to deal with the "wacky" guests and staff and many
I use the words "wacky" and "zany" here advisedly, as most things about the plot are incredibly bland, in that, from a plot standpoint, this looks like a pretty standard sit-com of the type which were so prevalent in the 70s and 80s.
What sets "No Soap Radio" apart, is that while it had a pretty generic plot, all of the action of the show was interspersed with very frenetic and surreal sketch comedy which was very reminiscent of Monty Python, Benny Hill, or Spike Milligan. For instance, some of the guests at the hotel might be walking down a hallway, when they are suddenly almost crushed when a giant foot comes crashing down in front of them. Zoom out to reveal that the foot belongs to a father who has just accidentally stepped on his sons model of a hotel. This would launch a totally unrelated sketch, which would then weave its way back into the main plot.
I vividly remember watching this show when I was a kid. I thought the sketch pieces were absolutely hysterical, I loved the way the sketches were interlinked to the main plot (which I was generally less impressed with). I found it frustrating that the show was only on intermittently during the summer and vanished after just a few episodes.
It was only recently that I managed to find a copy of the few existing episodes on eBay. As you can well imagine, I eagerly watched them, and while I revisited many of the skits that I remembered as a child, I was a bit disappointed with the show as a whole. There seemed to be too great a disparity between the main plot and the sketches. The main plot dragged on for far too long, usually on a paper-thin premise, while the sketch bits (most of which were truly unique with very funny concepts behind them) felt very rushed, as if the director was in a hurry to wrap them up quickly and get a laugh, this usually spoiled most of the punch-lines. In general the timing seemed off.
Of course, this is going to happen in the early stages of any program, when the people who created it haven't fully come to terms with their material. However, this show was such an unusual concept, so different from other programs which ABC was running at the time (to give you an idea, some of the other shows on ABC at the time were "Love Boat," "Fantasy Island," and "Happy Days"), you got the impression that the network executives had commissioned some shows, and when they saw the product, canned the whole project, and used the existing episodes as fill in when their summer season had a few holes in it.
Its a pity this show wasn't allowed to grow to its full potential, but I guess we're lucky that it ever aired at all.
Although this comedy only lasted a season it was probably one of American
television's best attempts in creating a Monty Python type sketch comedy
The show was led by a young Steve Guttenberg (YES, the Steve Guttenberg who later starred in all those dreary police academy films) and a small band of Hollywood character actors. The basis of each show revolved VERY loosely on the events at a hotel in which Guttenberg worked.
NSR was not afraid to completely wander from the show's premise as with Monty Python's Flying Circus. This show would go into movie parodies or other skits completely unrelated to the main story. Like some of the best Python episodes, NSR would eventually find its way back to close its story before the episode was over.
One of the unrelated events would be a stunt by Bob "Super Dave Osborne" Einstien. The NSR skits were probably some of his best stuff (when Super Dave is limited to a few minutes, is can be quite funny), especially his most dangerous stunt of cursing at the late New York Yankees hotheaded manager, Billy Martin.
The show had some great continuing gags. One involved a reoccurring sight gag in a "Break in Case of Fire" box (more like a booth). Each week one would see everything from a live fireman to a boy scout (rubbing two sticks together) encaged in the glass booth.
NSR was a part of ABC's "Two Hours of Comedy Power' for the 1982 year. In the Tuesday night line up started with the show "Bossom Buddies" with the talented Peter Scolari and some guy named Tom Hanks (whatever happened to this guy?), No Soap Radio, and the series "Police Squad" with Leslie Nelson (which spawned three movies of the same name). The evening would end with "Mork and Mindy" in which the great Jonathan Winters joined the series in the 1981-1982 year as Mork's (Robin Williams) son, Mearth.
Considering what became of the shows and its stars, I would love to see ABC or even Comedy Central show these two hours as they originally appeared 20 years ago. All have pretty much appeared in syndication except NSR. It is about time that the most daring show of the series gets credit for attempting to be creative.
This show appeared in what we may now call a "golden" period for
network television. in the early 1980s, for whatever reason, the
commercial networks seemed willing to take chances on dicey shows, even
airing programs with admittedly no chance of commercial survival.
It was in this atmosphere that "Live from Studio 8H" aired on NBC--a program featuring classical music performances from the studio where Arturo Toscanini once conducted live concerts. And, over on ABC, a "limited-run" series called "Police Squad" cracked us up for six episodes, then was gone. During this period "No Soap, Radio" also aired on ABC, enjoying only a brief run.
"No Soap, Radio" was evidently never intended to succeed. One may suppose that the "doomed" shows of the 80s were aired to lend prestige to the networks which carried them. In any case, "No Soap" was a funny show and brought some wonderful talent back to television, notably Bill Dana, who had been one of the Sixties' stars of the medium.
The humor on "No Soap" was decidedly out of the mainstream. Many folks would (and did) turn the channel when confronted with it. But the show was funny, and appealed to the same type of humor connoisseur who worshiped "The Dick Van Dyke Show" (which, by the way, was a hit).
So, "No Soap, Radio" is an unjustly neglected show. The talent involved with it alone should have made it a hit, but it was never meant to be. The commercial networks in those days were willing to put these shows on the air, but not to stand by them or promote them. A couple of years after this show, "Buffalo Bill" and "Domestic Life" met the same fate on NBC.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The U.S. comedy show 'No Soap, Radio' was set in the run-down Pelican
Hotel in Atlantic City. Combining surreal sketches with more
conventional sitcom plots, it was an attempt to cross 'Monty Python's
Flying Circus' with 'Fawlty Towers' - visual gags popped up everywhere,
such as a fireman inside a glass case marked 'Break Open In Case Of
Fire', a man in a sauna is astounded to see a London policeman ( Joe
Baker ) stroll by, whistling cheerfully, a news anchorman reports the
mysterious disappearance of 'Mr.Potato Head' from Toyland, a
middle-aged couple are made to wear suits of armour in a posh
restaurant, and the hotel elevator's doors open to reveal different
locations including a student protest and Miami Beach; guests often
find themselves in woods or jungles instead of their rooms, and
confronted by strange phenomena such as a man-eating chair or a Wild
Wild gunfighter. The show was best summed up by its opening credits
which depicted a roller-coaster ride to the accompaniment of an upbeat
Steve Guttenberg ( later to play 'Mahoney' in the 'Police Academy' series ) starred as the manager 'Roger', with 'Karen' ( Hilary Bailey ), his assistant with whom he was in love, and Stuart Pankin as 'Tuttle', the house detective.
One of my favourite sketches was 'Yukon Dan', a send-up of T.V.'s 'The Life & Times Of Grizzly Adams'. Another was a spoof trailer for a sci-fi picture called 'The Day Everyone's Name Was Al'.
'Radio' was too 'far out' to attract a mass audience. If nothing else, it should have attracted a cult following, but strangely did not. 13 episodes were made, but only five were screened. In the U.K., B.B.C.-2 ran the series a year after its U.S. debut, where it was better received. "More 'No Soap, Radio' soon please!" demanded a 'Radio Times' reader, when it finally ended. Like 'Police Squad!', it was ahead of its time. It would be great to see a D.V.D./Blu-Ray release someday.
I just got my hands on 3 episodes and watched them. Brilliant! Take a bit of Monty Python, mix in a slightly more coherent and unified story line and add more surreal bits and transitions. OK, the acting is mediocre and some of the stuff is silly, but some is wonderful! If I could get more episodes (there were between 4 and 6 depending on where you check) or better quality, I would! I actually tried sending mail to various stars of the show and got no where. eventually, i spoke to a comedian who was a guest star who said he would check with Bob Saget who was also a guest star, but that never got me anywhere. I must say that Steve Guttenberg, Stuart Pankin and Edie McLurg have not returned my emails. This has been a 20+ year quest for me. To have gotten 3 episodes is an unbelievable thing for me.
Maybe when you're 14 you laugh at anything but I thought this was a
brilliant programme. In particular the skit on "Yukon Dan" (or whatever
name was) sticks in my memory ... the twee tune , the perfect lyrics:
"his breath would make a grizzly cryyyyyyyyyy ....
and he wore a stupid hat ! "
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This show was a 1982 summer fill-in. It only ran for about five or six weeks. Each show had a loose story involving the hotel, which was run by Steve Guttenberg, but was laced with skits that had nothing to do with the main plot. Many of the comedy character actors of the time made appearances. I think my favorite was the Japanese mini-sub crew that spent their time "cruising" for targets in a city park! It was also filled with sight gags, such as having a fireman standing behind a glass pane that had "In case of fire, break glass" stenciled on it. If you liked 'Police Squad' you'd love 'No Soap, Radio'. If it ever comes out on DVD, I'll be first in line!
When this show aired on ABC in 1982, I couldn't figure it out. This was crazy stuff. I liked the gags more than I did the storyline. If this aired today, it would have been a smash hit. But in 1982, the public wasn't ready for this. This, mind you, was the era of "Dallas" and "Magnum P.I.". I didn't know who starred in this show until I read later that it was Steve Guttenberg, who you all know starred in those god awful "Police Academy" movies. I didn't care for his character on this show. I remember the view from a roller-coaster during the opening credits. I would have expected Comedy Central, TV Land, or Comedy Central's predecessor HA! to rerun the episodes, but none of them did. Though it didn't receive the cult status of another short-lived groundbreaking show, "Police Squad", this show stills stands in my memory as one of the craziest shows I have ever watched.
For reasons unknown, vague memories of this show of which I watched perhaps 2 episodes when I was a pre-teen bubbled up to my conscious thoughts today. All I could recall was that it was a sitcom from around 1980, it was set in a hotel, and it included many weird non sequiturs. Luckily that was enough to pin down this title in the IMDb advanced search. Until I can find some episodes to watch I can't say if it was good or bad but the memory of it is still with me 35 years later which is saying something.
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