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The Nutt House aired from September until October 1989 on NBC.

Lunatics ran the asylum in this slapstick farce from the twisted mind of famed actor.producer Mel Brooks. The setting was Nutt House, a once elegant New York City Hotel that had fallen on hard times, no doubt due in part to the hilariously incompetent staff. Reginald ( Harvey Korman) was the tall, supercilious manager; Ms. Frick ( Cloris Leachman), the overpadded, oversexed head housekeeper with a thick accent, who was constantly trying to bed Reginald; Freddy ( Mark Blankfield), the nearly blind elevator operator; and Charles ( Brian McNamara), the handsome but vacuous playboy son of owner Edwina Nutt ( also played by Cloris Leachman), who had put him in charge. Only Sally ( Molly Hagan), Mrs. Nutt's pretty secretary was almost normal. Add an assortment of senile doormen, bumbling bellboys, and babbling maids, plus pratfalls and sight gags galore, and you get the idea. Hotel gone mad. Would you like a room for the evening? Are you sure?

A Review from the Washington Post

By Tom Shales September 20, 1989

"The Nutt House" may be a television first: a show where the laugh track doesn't laugh enough. It's too bad that instead of being taped before a live audience, "Nutt House" was filmed with a dead one, because real humans would probably respond much more audibly to Harvey Korman and Cloris Leachman than the darn sissy machine does. Even so, "Nutt House" -- premiering at 9 tonight on Channel 4 the season's most cherishable oddity, an anachronistic romp that occasionally borders on the uproarious. Korman plays the manager and Leachman the head housekeeper at a New York hotel that has seen better days, though apparently never that much better. Rundown and largely deserted, Nutt House must somehow pull itself together in order to rebuff a hostile takeover attempt, as in the book and movie versions of "Hotel." The show was constructed by two of our nation's nobler madcaps -- Mel Brooks, who has a slew of screwball movies to his credit, and Alan Spencer, who did ABC's little-seen but merrily ambitious parody "Sledge Hammer!" Completely different from all other network comedies now on the air, "Nutt House" has outrageous slapstick, broad burlesque and absurd sight gags. It represents an important kind of silly humor that needs to be kept alive, and Korman and Leachman know just how to preserve it. They're living treasures themselves, and they've been away from series TV too long. Taking a whiff from a frosting flower someone mischievously sticks in his lapel, Korman acquires a candy-red nose yet strides through the lobby with lunatic dignity nevertheless. Leachman, her derriere bolstered with so much padding it's about as big as Montana, pounds angrily on a disheveled bed as she chastises two lazy maids for its untidiness -- then realizes there's still a guest dozing under the covers. At one point, or actually at two, Leachman pins another guest against a door frame with her breasts, which have been encased in metal housing much as they were in Brooks's spoof "High Anxiety," in which Leachman and Korman were also teamed. In the original "Nutt House" pilot, the dowager owner of the hotel was played by Jeanette Nolan. But NBC Entertainment president Brandon Tartikoff didn't think Nolan was funny enough and had Mrs. Nutt recast. Result: Leachman, powdered whiter than Marley's Ghost, plays that role too. "You never show signs of aging," marvels the manager as the decrepit Mrs. Nutt collapses to the floor. Others who populate the hotel include grinny Ronny Graham as a doorman who has trouble telling outdoors from indoors and Mark Blankfield as a phenomenally myopic elevator operator. "What floor?" he asks two potential passengers. "Lobby," they say. "No -- what floor am I on now?" The requisite romantic leads, around whom the crazies cavort, are properly appealing: Brian McNamara as Charles Nutt III, a playboy who lasted only 20 minutes at Harvard Business School ("I'm a ne'er-do-well; the only thing I do well is ne'er") and Molly Hagan as Sally the secretary, with whom the young Nutt falls more or less instantly in love. In truth, there are some terrible gags, and the show will no doubt be tighter at its normal half-hour length; Brooks insisted on a one-hour pilot on the grounds that, well, he's Mel Brooks. And indeed he is. Curiously, the takeover tycoon (David Huddleston) isn't patterned after Donald Trump or any other familiar figure from the news; and it's too bad, given her high profile, that there's no one based on hot-water hoteliette Leona Helmsley, either. But this is comedy of proud irrelevance, and to compromise that might hurt it. The laughter really is oddly quiet, and the direction a beat or two off at times. Surely Korman and Leachman would be happier flirting with a live audience. The soundtrack has a deadness to it, although NBC points out that the copy submitted for preview has not been through a final "sweetening." Anyway, some people will just hate it and find it stubbornly unfunny. Others, especially those who enjoyed movies like "Airplane!" and "The Naked Gun" and the Brooks farces, will fall more or less instantly in love. "Nutt House" is an irregular riot. 'Peaceable Kingdom' Television is generally too insistent, too intrusive, too cacophonous. All true. But the proper antidote would not seem to be a show that falls asleep even before a viewer has a chance to -- a show like the appropriately titled "Peaceable Kingdom," premiering at 8 tonight on Channel 9. "Peaceable Kingdom" -- the name of a new sleeping pill, perhaps? Actually, yes. CBS would like nothing more than to develop a few 8 o'clock hits with which to lure viewers who might stick around for the rest of the evening. But this show, with Lindsay Wagner as the director of a Los Angeles zoo, ain't it. The character Wagner plays is too perfect (a single mother raising two kids as well as an ark full of furry creatures) and even though she has a crisis every two minutes, the premiere seems numbingly uneventful. Tom Wopat, as a zoo doc, was to have been a love interest for Wagner, but the character's been changed to that of her brother. Presumably, their burnished dialogue will remain. After a thunderstorm makes a mess of the new gorilla exhibit, Wagner vows to open on time. Wopat scoffs, "What's it going to take? Try a miracle!" Later, after a much-loved lion has wandered off and been hit by a truck, Wopat brings Wagner to her senses by barking, "The lion is dead. Don't take it out on the gorillas!" Add to this a sick baby kangaroo and a snow leopard who doesn't want to mate, and you have the surprisingly tedious answer to, "What's new at the zoo?" Wagner makes herself comfortable, and comforting, right off, but she's no Sigourney Weaver and this is no "Gorillas in the Mist," and that wasn't even that good. "An animal species becomes extinct every 20 minutes," she is told. Yes, it is sad. But that's still more time than most viewers will want to while away in "Peaceable Kingdom." 'Young Riders' ABC's "The Young Riders" has a certain charm, and it's definitely a rare breed: a TV Western, the only one around in these here parts other than "Paradise" on CBS. Previewing tonight at 8:30 on Channel 7 (and subsequently airing Thursdays at 9), "Young Riders" will remind some viewers of the bratpacker film "Young Guns," and still others of the John Wayne movie "The Cowboys." Another obvious antecedent is "21 Jump Street," the Fox show about moody broody young cops. Sugarcured ham Anthony Zerbe has the Wayne-like role of Teaspoon Hunter, mentor and guardian to a troop of teenage cowpokes, recruits for the Pony Express circa 1860. A personable crop of actors play the riders -- among them, Josh Brolin as cocky Jimmy Hickcock, Travis Fine as the mercurially mute Ike McSwain, and Yvonne Suhor as a pony boy who is actually, under the buckskin jacket and floppy hat, a pony girl. The series was originally called "The Kid" and a kid called The Kid is still the central character through whose eyes we see the stories unfold. In that role, Ty Miller shows a steely and subtle charisma that easily makes him the centrifugal center of the show. Unfortunately, the pilot continues the old Western tradition of glamorizing guns, and everyone measures everyone else by his or her prowess with firearms. But then, the old West was not a particularly peaceable kingdom, and no one could say the show dwells on violence or gore. "Young Riders" is expendable and marginal as a series, but it's not badly done, and with its period costumes, diffused lighting and smoky photography, it does offer a kind of romantic oasis. Do kids still play cowboy? It's nice that at least during one hour of prime time, they do.

An Article from the Chicago Tribune

Mel Brooks` `Nutt House` Romp Leads A Night Of Television Menageries
September 20, 1989|By Rick Kogan, TV/radio critic.

The comedy of Mel Brooks can be as strange and disturbing as the comedy of any person who has ever attempted to make us laugh. It is so off-kilter, sometimes so crude and vulgar, that one is almost embarrassed to be laughing at it.

Brooks` sensibilities are perhaps best symbolized by the moment in

``Blazing Saddles`` when Alex Karras flattens a horse with one punch. It`s an unexpected and almost demented moment, but hilarious nonetheless.

Many people call Brooks a genius. If he is, he has a very uneven track record. His films have gone from the sublime (``The Producers``) to the stupid (``History of the World Part I``). His television work, ignoring whatever contributions he made as a writer to Sid Caesar`s shows, has been worse.

Does anyone remember ``When Things Were Rotten``? The series ran for 13 weeks in 1975, a blissfully brief encounter with Robin Hood and his pals, starring Dick Gautier, Bernie Kopell and Dick Van Patten.

Brooks returns to television at 8 p.m. Wednesday in a special one-hour NBC premiere, before moving to its enviable 8:30 p.m. timeslot, immediately after ``Night Court.`` This venture is called ``Nutt House`` and stars the intriguing pairing of Cloris Leachman and Harvey Korman.

It is stupid, silly, sophomoric and uninhibited. It is also quite funny, a wicked romp through the bizarre hallways of a New York hotel called the Nutt House-a place into which ``people who check in without reservations, check out with plenty``-and into the equally oddball lives of those who call this asylum home.

Principal nuts in the Nutt include a nearly blind elevator operator (Mark Blankfield); a senile doorman; Korman as the pretentiously sophisticated manager; and Leachman as the oversexed Teutonic head housekeeper and as the hotel`s owner, Mrs. Nutt, old enough to have been the girlfriend of Brooks`

famous creation, ``The Two Thousand Year Old Man.``

It`s a gloriously goofy bunch, not above the most outlandish, childish and naughty behavior. Brooks` partner in this venture is Alan Spencer, who gave us ``Sledge Hammer.`` They are wild and crazy guys.


It`s a kind kingdom over which Lindsay Wagner reigns, a professional and personal menagerie comprised, respectively, of the dozens of animals that make up the collection at the Los Angeles County Zoo, of which she has become managing director, and the three kids and pet seal that live in her spacious home on the zoo grounds.

Wagner is animal`s best friend, determined to better their conditions. Whatever she may lack in knowledge, and that is considerable, she makes up for in a chutzpah that enables her to do battle with bureaucrats and with David Ackroyd, the zoo`s research director.

Her brother, played by Tom Wopat, happens to be the zoo`s vet. Wagner loves him and she loves her work: ``We live in a zoo, guys. You have every pet in the world,`` she tells her children.

A zoo, of course, represents potential for crises aplenty, and in the premiere a lion is killed by a truck.

But it is, as well, and perhaps more to the ratings point, the source of an infinite number of heartwarming moments.

In this ``Peacful Kingdom,`` 7 p.m. Wednesday on WBBM-Ch. 2, Wopat sings songs to a lion, gorillas frolic in their new habitat, a baby raccoon takes food and the seal rests his head on Wagner`s lap. These are images that will gladden the hearts of animal lovers everywhere-however sappy, however dull.


In light of the stunning defeat of ``Lonesome Dove`` in Sunday`s Emmy Awards, the geniuses behind ``Young Riders,`` 7:30 p.m. Wednesday on WLS-Ch. 7 (regular slot 8 p.m. Thursdays), must be kicking themselves. If the television industry`s repudiation of the western were not troublesome enough, this show is unlikely to bring the western back to small box prominence.

Set in 1860, it gathers a group of surprisingly grizzled youngsters-Ty Miller, Stephen Baldwin, Josh Brolin, Travis Fine, Gregg Rainwater and Yvonne Suhor-who want to ride for the Pony Express.

Under the tutelage of truly grizzled Anthony Zerbe, they will learn the ropes.

The premiere is filled with gunfire, emotionless acting and certain oater cliches.

There is some nice scenery and some capable horsemanship, even a few Indians, but ``Lonesome Dove`` this will never be.


Any number of Chicago comedy groups could learn a thing or two from ``The Capitol Steps,`` a Washington-based group of satirists who appear in their first television special, ``The Capitol Steps,`` 7:30 p.m. Wednesday on WTTW- Ch. 11. Comprising former and current congressional aides, the eight-person gang performs some nifty songs parodies-``Stand By Your Dan,`` ``Thank God I`m a Contra Boy``-and poke good-natured fun at pols and politics.

Their material is knowing, clever and amusing. But it lacks the necessary outrage to rise above the level of mere entertaining. Still, a swift 30 minutes.

An Article from The LA Times

Can 'Nutt House' Crack the Ratings?
October 04, 1989|DIANE HAITHMAN | Times Staff Writer

"I have to box his ear," Cloris Leachman said. "First, I twist his ear, then I step on his toe, and I thought it would be funny if his head hit my chest, because I have a big chest, and then I box his ear."

Leachman, one of the stars of the new NBC series "The Nutt House"--about the off-kilter denizens of a crumbling Manhattan hotel--was recapping the scene she had just finished filming before a lunch break at her trailer at Walt Disney Studio.

Although "The Nutt House" is a half-hour, one-camera show like the so-called "dramedies" of the past two seasons ("The Wonder Years," "Hooperman," "The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd"), there the resemblance ends. Like most vignettes from "The Nutt House," Leachman's scene less resembles a poignant moment in dramedy than a close encounter with Larry, Moe and Curly.

"It tickles you, it just tickles you," Leachman said. "This kind of humor is the kind that sneaks up behind you and kicks you behind the knees."

Created by Mel Brooks and Alan Spencer for Disney's Touchstone Television, "The Nutt House" stars Leachman and Harvey Korman--both veterans of Brooks' feature films--as the buxom and starchy German housekeeper, Ms. Frick, and the ultra-suave hotel manager, Reginald J. Tarkington (on whom Ms. Frick maintains a not-so-secret crush).

Other series regulars include Brian McNamara as the owner's ne'er do well grandson, Charles Nutt III; Molly Hagan as Sally the secretary; Gregory Itzin as desk clerk Dennis, and Mark Blankenfield as the hopelessly myopic elevator operator, Freddy.

"It's like a throwback to an older style of comedy," said the 29-year-old Spencer. "I'm not saying there aren't some things about it that are contemporary, but its sole purpose is to make you laugh.

"When you switch around your TV dial and watch what's purportedly called a comedy, it doesn't make you laugh. It may make you smile a little bit, kind of chuckle; maybe it lulls you to sleep, if you need that. But it doesn't just reach out and grab you and assault you and say, 'Hey, we're really trying to do something funny here!' "

Said Korman: "We're trying to blend slapstick with people who really care about each other. It's a fragile, fragile kind of comedy we're doing, I don't think anybody else is doing it at the moment, so I think we're kind of courageous."

(TV viewers haven't been noticably impressed, however. The show attracted about 2.8 million fewer households the second week out than it had the first, and it finished third in its Wednesday night time slot last week, ranking 44th among the week's 88 prime-time programs. It is preempted tonight by the baseball playoffs.)

Even the birth of "The Nutt House" has a goofy quality to it. Disney still had the expensive New York hotel set used in the 1988 feature film "Big Business," starring Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin, and decided not to let it go to waste. So they invited Brooks to fashion a comedy series around it. Brooks called on Spencer, creator of ABC's off-the-wall detective series "Sledge Hammer!" to become his production partner.

In his high school yearbook, Spencer wrote that his goal in life was to work with Brooks someday. Brooks was a co-creator of the series that inspired "Sledge Hammer!" and "Get Smart" (1965-70). Spencer said tht as a teen-ager in 1974 he actually snuck onto the set of Brooks' "Young Frankenstein" and tactfully asked him in the middle of shooting: "Are you busy?" Brooks brushed Spencer off then, but later offered the young writer some valuable tips on getting into the comedy writing business.

Spencer wrote jokes for another Brooks series, "When Things Were Rotten," while in high school, but this is their first collaboration. Brooks, however, is currently traveling in Europe doing work on his upcoming autobiographical feature film, "Life Stinks." Spencer handles the day-to-day "Nutt House" operations and supervises the scriptwriting.

Despite the difference in age, Spencer has found that his comic sensibility fits well with those of Brooks and comedy veterans Leachman and Korman. "I loved 'Your Show of Shows'; I've always been a student of the older style, the classic comedy. I reminisce about the good old days, even though I wasn't there," he said.

Both he and Warren Littlefield, NBC executive vice president of prime-time programs, admit that the network had some doubts about bringing back slapstick comedy; the original half-hour pilot for "The Nutt House" was re-tooled and expanded to an hour.

Littlefield said the pilot needed altering to avoid letting the physical comedy get in the way of developing sympathetic characters. "What we didn't have was the kind of bond between Harvey and Cloris and the others, the sense that they were a family," he said.

Leachman, whose last comedy role was as house-mother on NBC's long-running comedy about an Eastern girls' school, "Facts of Life," said that "The Nutt House" comedy is easier than traditional situation comedy.

"Situation comedy is harder because there are written jokes . . . what they call 'sitcoms' really aren't, they're jokes, and they can really be pretty bad," she said. "I would never put down the sitcom, because it's been very good to me, but this is more like a feature film. Here I feel like a rabbit in a briar patch--I've found my metier, I think. I had a devil of a time in 'Facts of Life' trying not to play an (outrageous) character. It's so hard for me because I think silly."

Korman, best known for his sketch comedy on "The Carol Burnett Show," tried two traditional sitcoms afterward: ABC's "The Harvey Korman Show" and CBS' "Leo and Liz in Beverly Hills." Neither lasted long. "I did a significant failure for ABC, I did a failure for CBS, so I'm in the last store in town," he said cheerfully.

An Article from the Desert News


By Joseph Walker, Television Editor
Published: October 31, 1989 12:00 am

When NBC introduced "The Nutt House" last month, with Harvey Korman and Cloris Leachman heading the wacky staff at a tacky old hotel, the network figured it had a comedy that would appeal to a small-but-loyal audience.

They were right about the "loyal" part - the show's audience has remained remarkably consistent. But they had no idea how "small" that audience would be, or how much damage the series would do to the network's Wednesday night flow.As it turns out, however, the damage is considerable. Although "The Nutt House" has been receiving a strong lead-in audience from "Night Court," it has been delivering only about half that to "Quantum Leap" at 9 o'clock. So not only has "The Nutt House" been dying, but it has been taking "Quantum Leap" down with it.

Which is why the offbeat Mel Brooks-Alan Spencer series is the television season's second programming casualty. NBC officials announced Friday that "The Nutt House" cracked its last joke last week, and will be replaced Wednesday in the schedule by the week's second run of "My Two Dads." NBC will announce its long-term plans for the time period soon.

But you can be sure it will be something with broader appeal - and far less "nutty."

-ON TV TONIGHT: With no World Series game to play havoc with the schedule, you can settle in with your favorite Fright Night comedy. KXIV (Ch. 14), always ready to try something fun and creative, presents special Halloween episodes from vintage (you'll notice I didn't say "classic," which to me intimates excellence and quality) sitcoms like The Addams Family (7 and 8:30 p.m.), The Beverly Hillbillies (7:30) and Happy Days (8). And if that isn't enough, there's George Hamilton as a very suave Dracula in Love at First Bite (9 p.m., Ch. 14), a surprisingly effective and entertaining film, given Hamilton's track record.

Also treating Halloween like a laughing matter is Roseanne (8 p.m., Ch. 4), where the Conners' build a Halloween Tunnel of Terror. And TBS has a comedy movie double-header, with Don Knotts in The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (6:05 p.m.) and "The Munsters" in Munster, Go Home (8:05 p.m.).

More traditional frightening fare is offered elsewhere: The Howling II (8 p.m., Ch. 14), a grisly 1985 feature about werewolves; Fred Astaire, Melvyn Douglas, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and John Houseman in Ghost Story (6 p.m., WGN); Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi in Black Friday (6:30 p.m., AMC); Trick or Treats (7 p.m., USA), a 1982 horror feature about a babysitting nightmare; House of Frankenstein (8:15 p.m., AMC) with Boris Karloff as the mad scientist, Glenn Strange (great name, huh?) as his creation, Lon Chaney as the Wolf Man and John Carradine as Count Dracula; Dracula's Daughter (9:30 p.m., AMC); One Dark Night (10:05 p.m., TBS), with Meg Tilly as a soroity pledge forced to spend the night in a mausoleum; Dracula A.C. 1972 (10:30 p.m., WGN), with Christopher Lee as the original Blood Count doing his thing in contemporary London; Lon Chaney in 1943's Son of Dracula (10:45 p.m., AMC); Fay Wray and Melvyn Douglas in Vampire Bat (11 p.m., Ch. 11); and Blood Song (11:30 p.m., USA), with Frankie Avalon as - are you ready for this? - an ax murderer.

And if you were really counting on a ball game tonight, how about the NBA's Hall of Fame Game (6 p.m., TNT), with the Knicks tipping off the season against the Bucks?

-LOOKING TOWARD WEDNESDAY: Lee Marin leads the original Dirty Dozen (6 p.m., TNT); Loni Anderson lends her voice to the animated Blondie & Dagwood (7 p.m., Ch. 5); Mark Russell (7 p.m., Ch. 7) returns for a new season of satire on PBS; the kids at The Head of the Class (7:30 p.m., Ch. 4) prepare an experiment to go up with the space shuttle; CBS has a new animated special based on Hagar the Horrible (7:30 p.m., Ch. 5); Timeline (7:30 p.m., Ch. 7) follows the Mongols into Europe in 1247; KBYU has William Wyler's classic The Best Years of Our Lives (8 p.m., Ch. 11); Michael J. Fox finds The Secret of My Success (8 p.m., Ch. 13); Ray Milland and Grace Kelly star in Alfred Hitchcock's Dial M for Murder (8 p.m., Ch. 14); the Better World Society remembers Chico Mendes (8:05 p.m., TBS); and Barbara Walters (9 p.m., Ch. 4) interviews Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York.

To watch some clips from the Nutt House go to

For more on The Nutt House go to

To watch the opening credits go to
Date: Thu April 26, 2007 � Filesize: 63.5kb � Dimensions: 509 x 642 �
Keywords: Nutt House: Cast Photo (Links Updated 7/20/18)


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