Delta House (1979– )
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In that vein, "Delta House" had the potential to be a worthy follow-up to "Animal House." It reunited much of the cast of the debaucherous 1978 classic as well as many of the original's creative team. Trouble was, "Animal House" was a raunchy R-rated movie, and in 1979, television was so squeaky-clean you couldn't even say the word "pregnant." ABC, land of "Three's Company"'s wacky-till-it-bleeds double-entendres, stuck "Delta House" in an early-evening timeslot worthy of "The Waltons" and surgically excised any trace of the original's humor, leaving the cast with nothing to do but pass around tone-deaf anti-establishment banter that even Dean Wormer would have found square. "Delta House" got promising ratings despite all this, but perhaps sensing the creative impossibility, ABC pulled the plug. The cast and crew deserve a medal for trying, but there was just no way to adapt a screamingly funny R-rated film for broadcast TV in 1979, and thankfully there still isn't. John Belushi's Bluto would have smashed this show to bits on a staircase.
John Belushi, who had starred as 'Bluto' Blutarsky in the film, was (no surprise) unwilling to commit to a weekly sitcom. In this show's one piece of cleverness, a surrogate Bluto was cast in the form of actor Josh Mostel as 'Blotto', Bluto's brother. Josh Mostel is a talented actor: his physical type makes him difficult to cast, but he has a far broader range than his father, the grossly overrated Less-Than-Zero Mostel. (In an interview, Josh Mostel revealed the one and only piece of showbiz wisdom ever imparted to him by his father: 'Just before you go on stage, suck on something red so your tongue will show up.') It would have been intriguing if Belushi had guest-starred in 'Delta House'. Despite his absence, the scriptwriters made running references to his character. In one episode, Blotto announced that he'd received a letter from his brother Bluto, prompting a Delta brother to respond 'I didn't know Bluto could write' and another Delta to riposte 'I didn't know Blotto could read.' We did get to learn a bit more about the characters (and actors) who were carried over from the original movie ... for example, actor Bruce "D-Day" McGill demonstrating his ability to dislocate his joints so that his legs are reversed from hip to ankle!
The most obvious flaw in 'Delta House' was that network television simply could not offer the bawdy humour, drugs references, and obscenity-laced dialogue which had made 'Animal House' so popular. Much as Blotto was a bowdlerised version of Bluto, this sitcom was an antiseptic version of a film which was a hit precisely *because* of its skanky elements. Without any 'Animal House' shenanigans, 'Delta House' fell back on the lowest sitcom humour. A typical gag: in one episode, an attractive co-ed walked through the frat house wearing an army uniform. She went into a room, closed the door, then *immediately* opened the door and came out again wearing a sexy miniskirt and high heels. The laugh track guffawed uproariously, but the unfunny effect was clearly achieved by a very obvious jump cut.
For modern viewers, the single biggest attraction of 'Delta House' is a glimpse of the young Michelle Pfeiffer, early in her career. But Pfeiffer's role on 'Delta House' was extremely small, and she was given nothing to do beyond the standard bimbo bits. Pfeiffer has aged in an interesting way; I find her far sexier the way she is now (as I write this) than as she was at the time of 'Delta House' ... and she's a better actress now, too. The only alumnus of 'Delta House' to graduate with honours is make-up man Michael Blake, who is now the leading authority on the life and career of Lon Chaney. Really, there's nothing much going on here.
The show was called Delta House, and while the Animal House movie was quite entertaining this very predictable and unfunny sitcom is not. The character played by John Belushi is not present and the characters in the show are all watered down compared to their original version. I'm actually befuddled considering I (nor anyone else I asked about it) had never heard of the show, which is quite unusual considering the popularity of the movie. After watching just two episodes it's very easy for me to see why this show only lasted one season. It's a terrible bastardization of a great film.
But the same standards were even stricter in 1972 when Gene Reynolds and Larry Gelbart were working on a prime time TV series based on another wildly raunchy hit movie where comedy, immorality and bad taste intermingled with lots of blood and guts. The end result, was a TV series that was, in spite of the restrictions (or because of the restrictions) a huge hit that outlived itself and would've lasted a few more years had it not been for the decision to end it all with a big bang in February 1983. That series was MASH.
If only DELTA HOUSE had been aired on CBS with Gene Reynolds and Larry Gelbart on the team, the series would've been a lot funnier (in spite of the restrictions) and a lot more successful.
The first episode which introduced "Blotto", a seemingly hopelessly uncool loser until he chugged down a pitcher like it was nothing, was a gem! "I didn't know Bluto could write!" "I didn't know Bluto could read!" Another episode that stood out was the one where the Omegas built a fallout shelter and the Deltas managed to convince the Omegas that the "big one" had just been dropped.
It would've been be nice if the series would come out on DVD.
But according to the "Where are they now?" featurette of the ANIMAL HOUSE DVD, the events that followed ANIMAL HOUSE, leading to what would become DELTA HOUSE, never occurred. So we must accept the fact that DELTA HOUSE will probably never see the light of DVD reissuing.
WHAT WORKED ON the big screen of the movie houses oft fizzles when it is adapted to the Televisin, especially if it is placed into the thirty minute constraint of episodic Sitcoms.
AS A PRIME example of what we're driving at, we need not look very far back in time. With the success of MY BIG FAT Greek WEDDING() at the movie houses, CBS welcomed its video off spring, MY BIG FAT Greek LIFE. It featured many of the same cast members as did the theatrical feature film and was supposed to be the story of the newly wed couple's life after their wedding day.
SO, WHAT HAPPENED may have been a big surprise to the "Bottom Lkiners" at the old network, but it lasted only a paltry 7 episodes.
MUCH IN THE same manner, DELTA HOUSE had many of the same players from the feature, ANIMAL HOUSE (or more properly, NATIONAL LAMPOON'S ANIMSAL HOUSE), sans John Belushi as "BlutO". They had the same setting and tried to maintain a sort of continuity with the blockbuster film. They even introduced a younger brother character of the Belushi character as Jim "Blotto" Blutarsky. The fraternity's feud with Dean Wormer continued and everything should have been copasetic, right?
SO, WHAT WE think worked against this DELTA HOUSE spin off was that no matter how they tried, it was not what the public had found to be so attractive to their tastes in the theatrical release. Being on network, broadcast television automatically precluded so many of the "adult" incidents, nudity and language that a movie could get away with.
AND DON'T YOU forget, this was long before all of those daring cable productions that we have grown used to by now.