By 1975 producer Norman Lear had gone out on a limb several times, and hit the jackpot every single time, with All in the Family, Sanford and Son, Maude, the Jeffersons and Good Times. Calculating that controversy was where it’s at, this time he went a little too far, by developing a sit com out of Lanford Wilson’s off-Broadway play Hot L Baltimore, which concerned a seedy fleabag hotel populated with prostitutes, homosexuals, illegal aliens and the mentally ill. (“Hot L” is “Hotel….the “E” was burned out in the sign). In the cast were Conchata Ferrell, James Cromwell and Charlotte Rae, among others.
It’s so weird to read now that it lasted only 13 episodes — I probably watched nearly every single one, which in retrospect sounds a little inappropriate for a ten year old. And yet…it taught me something about theatre. They never showed any of the rooms upstairs. The whole show took place in the lobby, causing you to use your imagination about what went on upstairs. Yet another reason why the show was probably cancelled.
Here’s the “now”, “with-it” promo. (They hyped the hell out of the show, which is why I watched it so religiously, in addition to the fact that it was entertaining):