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The Slap Maxwell Story aired from September 1987 until September 1988 on ABC.
Dabney Coleman made a career of playing interesting reprobates ( e.g., Buffalo Bill), and he essayed another in this 1987 dramedy. "Slap" Maxwell ( Coleman) was an unbelievably egocentric sportswriter working for a second rate newspaper, The Ledger, located in the Southwest. His column "Slap Shots" was pecked out on an old typewriter ( The Ledger refused to modernize) and it was certainly lively;however, its rumors and innuendo tended to draw lawsuits , giving editor Nelson Kruger ( Brian Smiar) fits.That often got Slap fired, though he'd always come crawling back. Despite his monumental insensitivity to everyone around him, Slap had an on-again off-again girlfriend in Judy ( Megan Gallagher), the newspaper's secretary. Annie ( Susan Anspach), who knew better was his estranged wife,Charlie Wilson ( Bill Calvert) was a copyboy at the paper and Dutchman ( Bill Cobbs) was the friendly bartender at the local tavern.Joseph Brutsman was occasionally seen as Eliot, Slap's estranged son.They all managed to put up with Slap's bluster and bravado, which in the end, of course, got him nowhere.
In case the point of the series was not clear enough, each episode opened with shots of Slap getting slapped around-by (in producer Jay Tarses' words)" An athlete, a nun, or someone hurling a salami in anger."
A Review from The New York Times
By JOHN J. O'CONNOR
Published: September 23, 1987
And then there is Dabney Coleman's Slap Maxwell, who writes a newspaper sports column entitled ''Slap Shots.'' The character has been created by Jay Tarses, who has previously worked with Mr. Coleman in the short-lived but treasured series ''Buffalo Bill.'' Mr. Coleman is not your basic television-hunk type. For example, in a rather bizarre speech at the Emmy Awards on Sunday - he won a supporting-actor Emmy for his performance in ''Sworn to Silence'' - the actor made a point of saying hi to Abbe Lane, a reference that could be appreciated only by Xavier Cugat fans. His outstanding credits include playing William S. Paley of CBS in the Home Box Office production of ''Murrow.'' But he is especially adept at playing offbeat outsiders, an ability that surfaced distinctively years ago in the series ''Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.'' Beneath the Coleman surface lurks what aficionados like to call a fine madness.
Maxwell, of course, is impossible. His basic style is pure antagonism. ''I heard a rumor,'' he tells an infuriated sports representative, ''that a bunch of homosexual coke freaks have infiltrated the golf game.'' Facing several lawsuits for libel, he calmly explains to his exasperated boss: ''I can back up everything I write half the time.'' Facing the prospect of being fired once again, Maxwell inevitably reminds everyone of ''my column on Al Kaline's last time at bat.'' Smugly, he asks, ''How do you fire a legend?'' Well, someone replies, ''they fired Bert Parks.''
Both Mr. Coleman and Mr. Tarses seem determined to prove that weekly television series can come up with something other than the collection of pretty faces and cookie-cutter personalities who seem to have been plucked intact from fashion ads. The effect can be startling. More often than not, it's thoroughly refreshing. Here's to keeping Slap on the job.
A Review from The CSM
`Slap Maxwell' brings to prime time a life of unquiet desperation
By Alan Bunce September 23, 1987
The `Slap' Maxwell Story ABC, tonight, 9:30-10. Premi`ere of new comedy series starring Dabney Coleman. ``Six clich'es in 10 seconds! ... takes your breath away''
Slap's friend the Dutchman, a local barkeeper, has Slap's character down pat as he delivers this line during the premiere. Slap not only talks in clich'es, he carries on a rapid-fire '30s-style repartee with his girlfriend. And with the editor of the small Southwestern newspaper where's he's a sportswriter, Slap is in a permanent state of verbal warfare.
If it adds up to Dabney Coleman in your mind, it's because this brash title role is a successor to ``Buffalo Bill' and other semi-obnoxious types Mr. Coleman has played so skillfully in the past.
Slap's harsh chemistry with nearly all around him - implicitly including an estranged wife unseen in this episode - are the basis of the show's often entertaining but usually hard-won comedy points.
Actually, Slap's obnoxious ego is part of a much older dramatic tradition of jaunty males whose attitude probably symbolizes a universal reaction to ``outrageous fortune.'' On the surface he sasses his editor and generally leads a reckless life of unquiet desperation. Underneath you detect self-destructiveness. It takes comic form almost every time every time he opens his mouth - or writes one of the scurrilous columns that make his paper the object of lawsuits and cause its editor to come near to firing him.
In this premiere, Slap quits in the middle of one of their fights, and later - on his way out of town by bus - changes his mind when a black couple make him feel good about himself and his work. It's a key to Slap's outlook and to the show's thesis: that a small town is where Slap belongs, and that, despite his bravado, he knows it. The show may ridicule him, but it lets him fight back at life with a feisty tongue, defining a character that could prove worth watching in future episodes.
An Article from Sports Illustrated
November 16, 1987
Slap Crackles And Pops
Dabney Coleman is a hit in 'The Slap Maxwell Story'
Originally the hero of The Slap Maxwell Story was supposed to be a car dealer. "Hey, a guy's gotta be something," said Jay Tarses, the creator and producer of the new ABC show (Wednesday, 9:30 p.m. EST). But then Tarses started thinking. Both he and his star, Dabney Coleman, are avid sports fans. Back in 1983, for example, when they were taping Buffalo Bill , another Tarses creation, Coleman would stroll into Tarses's office, flash his trademark smirk and say, " Vern Stephens ." To which Tarses would respond, "Ken Heintzelman." And so on.
"Sometimes our only conversation for 15 solid minutes was names of old ballplayers," says Coleman. "People tend to look at you a little strangely after that."
So Tarses decided to capitalize on their love of sports and make Slap a sportswriter, the first of that breed to appear on a weekly series since Jack Klugman brought Oscar Madison to life in The Odd Couple 17 years ago. We welcome Slap to the fraternity, especially because Coleman, as the 15-year-old sports editor of his high school newspaper in Corpus Christi , Texas , once cadged an interview out of Jack Dempsey .
Slap writes a column ("Slap Shots," naturally) for a small-to medium-sized newspaper called The Ledger, somewhere in the Southwest. Those are the only specifics we get. Yet anyone who has ever frequented a press box recognizes Slap, a baseball-when-the-grass-was-real kind of sportswriter, a guy who hunts and pecks on an old Olympia and sips cold coffee from a Styrofoam cup. Most of his columns are colorful and well written Slap reminds us that his piece on Al Ka-line's last at bat "is still used in journalism schools" with accuracy running a poor third. "T can back up everything I write half the time," he tells his editor, which is why it isn't unusual to find Slap in both legal and physical combat.
Art does not precisely imitate life in the case of Slap-Coleman. Coleman, after all, owns a house in fashionable Brentwood (Slap lives in a motel) and plays a top-notch game of tennis, a sport Slap surely considers a bit precious. But actor and character are much alike. Both are tough-minded, irascible souls who romanticize the old days.
"Trippi. Kazmaier. Skippy Minisi," says Coleman, relaxing in his backyard and sending a puff of cigar smoke heavenward. "How about this one? Frankie Sinkwich. Are you kidding me? Were those real names or what? They don't have names like that anymore."
Coleman can go on like that for hours, reciting, like some mad beat poet, a litany of names, teams and uniform numbers. "Thirty-five, 41, 17, 25," says Coleman. Which is? "The great Army back field Blanchard, Davis, Arnold Tucker, Shorty McWilliams."
Coleman, 55, loves stances, too. Over the show's opening credits, Slap can be seen cradling a football and fending off tacklers in a classic 1940s pose. At home Coleman might jump to his feet and replicate Ted Williams at bat. Williams is Coleman's hero, and it is to the Kid that Slap sometimes soliloquizes. "They can brush you back, but they can't knock you down," says Slap, quoting Williams 's words to him.
Although Tarses bows to Coleman's encyclopedic knowledge of sports, Tarses and producer Bob Brush write the scripts. That's fine with Coleman: "Jay and I think so much alike that he automatically knows how Slap would feel about certain players and what these feelings mean to the character."
In a town where an attachment to sports is often measured by how frequently one eats pasta with Tommy Lasorda , Coleman prefers to watch games at home. "I hate that glad-handing stuff," he says. "I'd feel like I was invading their privacy if I went into a locker room." His love for sports is visceral, and he translates that passion to the character.
This doesn't mean that The Slap Maxwell Story will be a commercial success. Ratings for the first five shows have put it as high as 18 and as low as 60 among the 75 or so programs Nielsen measures each week. Still, ABC has given Slap a vote of confidence by ordering a full season of 22 episodes. Like Buffalo Bill , it is a dark sitcom ("dramedy" is the new Hollywood word) with no laugh track to poke you in the ribs and no clean resolution at episode's end. But if you're comfortable with a sportswriter who spends more time peering into the abyss than into, say, the Mets' clubhouse, Slap's your guy.
"Here's a name," says Coleman, continuing his mantra. "Procopio Herrera. A pitcher who had a cup of coffee with the St. Louis Browns [Coleman's alltime favorite team]. Jay loves those kinds of guys. Maybe he can use him."
An Article from the AP
December 2, 1987
Actress lands choice role on little-watched sitcom
NEW YORK (AP)-It's one of those good news-bad news situations.Megan Gallagher has a great role as smart, funny Judy Ralston on "The Slap Maxwell Story." The bad news is not that many people know it, because they aren't watching the show.
"See, I think one of the misconceptions about the show is that it's like 'Buffalo Bill,' and I think our numbers have reflected that people expect to see 'Buffalo Bill' and they're sort of predisposed against somebody like that," Gallagher said in an interview. " But Slap is a really likable, vulnerable , funny guy."
"The Slap Maxwell Story," Wednesdays on ABC, has reaped critical acclaim, but its ratings have been only so-so so far. It has nevertheless been picked up for the full season.
The misguided notion that "Slap Maxwell" is a reincarnation of 'Buffalo Bill' is due no doubt, to the fact that, like "Buffalo Bill," it stars Dabney Coleman and was co-created by Jay Tarses.
In "Slap," Coleman plays a old-school sports columnist who's made something of a mess of his life and knows it. Bill Bittinger, the egomaniacal talk-show host of "Buffalo Bill," would never , for instance, have had a scene like this:
Slap enlists Judy, his reluctant imamorata, to go along on a birthday outing for Slap's grown son Eliot, because Slap is so uncomfortable being around Eliot alone. " I don't know. Something happened,"Slap tells Judy. " We used to talk to each other back then. Of course it was baby talk mostly. Then he started to grow up, but we were still thick as thieves. Buddies. Huck Finn and Injun Joe. I'd get home late, he didn't mind. He's be waitin' up for me, his little eyelids droopin'. Told his friends I was the Moon's chauffer, drivin' across the sky in some kinda golfcart with propellers...
" In dailies, we're sitting there watching the same thing over and over again, and we're all crying everytime," said Gallagher. " I love it. I love going to work."
Gallagher has had a run of roles on better-than-average television shows, but none, she says, as rewarding as Judy.
" It was one of the first female characters that I've read, maybe ever, that was so well-drawn," she said. " She gets to do everything. She's smart, she's funny, she's vulnerable, she's a complete person."
An Article from USA TODAY
Published on January 27, 1988
Will a softer 'Slap' stop a ratings skid?
Hey pal, they're fighting over a guy's heart and mind here. You know what I mean? This sin't just another football game. This is the Super Bowl for Slap's soul.
In a three-part storyline starting Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. EST/PST on ABC, Slap Maxwell will begin to soften.
" I'm trying to make him a breezier kind of a guy," says Jay Tarses, the creator of The "Slap" Maxwell Story. " We certainly want him to be more vulnerable. Vulnerable elements make him likable and ageeable."
" I think there's a perception (with women)," says Brandon Stoddard, president of ABC Entertainment. " Here's this guy. He's a sportswriter. It's Dabney Coleman, Buffalo Bill. I'm not going to watch ( women say). It's guy stuff."
Guy stuff. Slap Maxwell, a newspaper sports columnist as played by Dabney Coleman, has a crusty conscience and a hard edge. He's an attractive man. He's just not always a gentleman.
And the attempt to lighten Slap comes over the objections of Coleman, who want's to keep the character walking a razor-sharp line. Coleman is not talking publicly about his gripes, but there's tension on the set.
"This isn't a locker room show," says ABC's vice-president of current programming . " But this character has certain anti-feminist traits...it may be putting women off to some degree."
This has turned into quite a ratings problem for ABC on Wednesday nights. Hooperman, the cop show starring John Ritter that airs at 9 EST/PST, pulls in a fairly healthy share of the audience-it was ranked 40th out of 73 programs last week. But that audience falls off dramatically when "Slap" comes on at 9:30. ABC dropped almost 3 ratings points between Hooperman and "Slap" ( representing 2.65 million viewers). "Slap" was tied for 62nd.
That drop-off can't be sniffed at since it means that viewers have to literally drag themselves out of their chairs and consciously make the choice not to watch "Slap."
ABC and Tarses' efforts to smooth over the character is an attempt to lure more women viewers who may have dismissed Slap as another Neanderthal who knows nothing about anything but sports.
Tonight, Maxwell walks out of his drab newsroom and returns to his native Texas, where he rekindles an old flame ( Shirley Jones).
" We've created a situation where the character can be more reflective," Barber says. " We're looking for stories that show a dept of emotion, a dept of concern."
Coleman, who has played many rogues during his career, doesn't want to ham up Slap as a funster. Tarses and ABC seek broader humor from the deadpan character. " We're looking for things that may bring a little more comedy to the surface," Barber says.
Differences between Tarses and Coleman have reached a point where creator and star aren't talking anymore except when they absolutely have to.
The two men are formidable opponents. Tarses-brash, brusque and daringly creative. Coleman- sharp, strong and opinionated . Both are Slap Maxwell. And both want control over him.
No telling who will win the behind-the-scenes battle for Slap's heart and mind. But Tarses promises "Slap" will not be a loser. " Take a look at the show and tell me if there are problems."
An Article from The Washington Post
SLAP GETS A GIRL
By Patricia Brennan February 14, 1988
In his first season on ABC, irascible sportswriter "Slap" Maxwell ditched his former wife at their re-marriage ceremony and never did the honorable thing for Judy, the Ledger secretary he bedded. Frankly, he was coming across as a heel with no redemption in sight.
But what really bothered ABC was that the crowd that tuned in on Wednesdays to see sensitive John Ritter on "Hooperman" at 9 was turning off -- or being turned off by -- Dabney Coleman on "The 'Slap' Maxwell Story" at 9:30. On Feb. 3, for example, a repeat episode of "Hooperman" put the show in 34th place for the week, but a fresh episode of "'Slap' Maxwell" could do no better than 49th.
Enter Shirley Jones, who at 18 sang the role of Laurey in the film version of "Oklahoma" and in her mid-30s played singing mom on ABC's "The Partridge Family." Could she, as Kitty Noland, help heal Slap Maxwell's middle-aged discontent and boost the ratings?
Apparently she did. After Jones' first appearance, on Feb. 3, "The 'Slap' Maxwell Story" rose from a rating of 11.0 on Jan. 27 to 13.8.
"They wanted to try something else," said Jones. "They felt -- and still feel, I guess -- that it's not a women's show because of what he does for a living and because he's a man. They wanted to try to soften him a little, to show a more sentimental side, a lighter side, a sweeter side.
"I'm the 'old girl friend' in every respect," she laughed. Jones will be 53 in March -- "aging gracefully, I hope."
Jones appears in all the February episodes and one in March as Maxwell's former hometown love. Judy Ralston (Megan Gallagher) is left to carry on her relationship with copy boy Charlie Wilson (Bill Calvert).
Whether Jones will appear on future episodes depends on the crucial ratings, which largely will also determine whether producer Jay Tarses' creation gets another season.
"They're pleased with what they see," said Jones. "I had a wonderful time. I just loved Dabney Coleman. We'd met briefly, but didn't really know each other. We both had a mutual admiration society. He's so different and exciting, but he isn't the easiest person to get to know. He's a very private person. He isn't thrilled with newspaper people and autograph seekers, so there's a little bit of that tension that runs through.
"I find him fascinating. He's extremely attractive from a woman's angle ... One of the reasons is he's so uncatchable -- he has that mysterious quality. The first day I came home and said, 'Wow, what an attractive man!' My husband said, 'Listen, maybe I don't want you to be working with him' ...
"He's so great to work with, from my point of view. The scenes we have together, although they're pretty well written, he makes so much better. It's like we've known each other forever. The very first scene is a big love scene -- for a half-hour sitcom, it's pretty racy. After they saw that first scene, everybody called me and said, 'Oh, the chemistry' ..."
The "big love scene" turned out to be a kiss and some gentle persuasion by Kitty that ended with the two heading upstairs for the night. This time it was Slap who protested briefly that the townsfolk would talk. Kitty assured him that even small-town Texans of the '80s wouldn't care.
Whether Jones stays with "'Slap' Maxwell" or not, she's gearing up her career again now that her three sons are grown. Last June she appeared in "There Were Times, Dear," which she called "a lovely thing on PBS about Alzheimer's, of which I was very proud."
In March she's scheduled to appear in PBS' "It's a Grand Night," a "musical with a lot of opera," and to begin a talk show with her husband, Marty Ingels, on the new cable service You. Jones described the service as "dedicated to self-improvement. Our show is called 'Happily Ever After' and it deals with marriage and family and just a little bit of everything."
Hosting a talk show is a departure for Jones. "First of all, I didn't think I was very good at it, and second, I didn't think I'd want to work with Marty because he's such a take-over guy." But she has concluded that their personalities mesh well in the talk-show format, and she likes the shooting schedule that requires only three or four days a month.
Shirley Jones, an angelic-looking blonde soprano from Smithton, Pa., caught the nation's eye -- and ear -- in 1955 when she was 18 and starred as Laurey in the film version of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Oklahoma!" with Gordon MacRae. After finishing the film, she continued the role in a troupe that was sent to Europe by the State Department. Also in the cast was actor-singer Jack Cassidy, whom she married in 1956. (They were separated in 1972 and divorced in 1975, and he died in an apartment fire the next year.)
She and MacRae appeared in another Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, "Carousel," in 1956, and four years later she won an Oscar as best supporting actress for her dramatic role in "Elmer Gantry" (1960). Burt Lancaster, who played the title role, won the Academy Award as best actor and director Richard Brooks won for his screenplay, based on Sinclair Lewis' novel. In 1961, Jones appeared as Marian the librarian in Meredith Willson's "The Music Man" with Robert Preston.
During most of the '60s, Jones spent her time bringing up her sons Shaun, Patrick and Ryan and making a series of lesser movies.
In 1970 she and stepson David Cassidy began a four-year run on ABC's "The Partridge Family." Jones played the widowed mother of a brood of youngsters who traveled around in a wildly painted schoolbus performing as a singing group. The series, loosely based on the experiences of the singing Cowsills family, spawned several hits including "I Think I Love You," which sold 4 million singles. Only Jones and Cassidy sang on the records, which were done by studio musicians, but David Cassidy became a heartthrob of young teen-age girls.
Among the alumni of "The Partridge Family," Jones, Cassidy and Susan Dey have continued their acting careers. Cassidy recently returned from London where he played the lead in the rock musical "Time." Dey (Laurie Partridge) plays Grace Van Owen on NBC's "L.A. Law." Of the others, Jones said, Danny Bonaduce (Danny Partridge) has a sushi restaurant in the Los Angeles area; Suzanne Crough, who played youngest daughter Tracy, "is married and a housewife," and David Madden (Reuben Kinkaid) "is doing commercials."
Jones' son Shaun, who appeared during the 1977-78 season as Joe Hardy in ABC's "The Hardy Boys Mysteries," also became a teen-age singing hit with a number-one record, "Da Do Ron Ron." Today, at 29, he is the father of Jones' grandchildren, Caitlin, 6, and Jake, 3. Last week he appeared on an episode of "Matlock," and is currently in Canada doing an "Alfred Hitchcock" episode.
Patrick Cassidy, 26, appeared as Hippolyte Charles in ABC's "Napoleon and Josephine" miniseries last November. And Ryan, 21, is "just making his way. He's going to acting class, selling Hondas and modeling. He's extraordinary to look at," said his mother, "but I think he's kind of too laid back, too normal."
An Article from USA TODAY
Published on March 2, 1988
Coleman goes to bat for surly Slap
By Tom Green
HOLLYWOOD,CALIF.-Most mornings, the first place you would check to find Dabney Coleman is a little sidewalk cafe near his home.
He won't be engrossed in a Hollywood power breakfast. His nose will be buried in the sports section ; he'll be oblivious to all else.
" I can look at the standings and stats page easily 45 minutes," says the 56-year-old Texas-reared actor, much like "Slap" Maxwell, the sportswriter he plays on ABC's The "Slap" Maxwell Story.
Right now, before he begins filming Baby M, a four-hour ABC docudrama in which he plays a lawyer, Coleman is savoring the end of production on the first season of "Slap."
"It's over, thank God!" says Coleman, who is too pragmatic to believe there will be a second season.
The last time he checked, his show was ranked 48th in the ratings. His old show, Buffalo Bill had been ranked 51st and was canceled.
But it's not dislike of Slap or the show that has Coleman relieved. Getting it filmed had been grueling.
Producer Jay Tarses, who also does The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd found a remote San Fernando Valley to film "Slap." It turned out to be near an airport and every time a plane flew over, production had to stop.
If there is a second season-most in the industry bet there will be -"Slap" will be filmed at a studio and it'll be funnier.
" That's fine with me,"Coleman says. " I think maybe the show reads a little funnier than it performs. Don't ask me to explain why because I have no idea. But I'm convinced of it."
"Slap" like Molly Dodd and ABC's Hooperman, has been dubbed "dramedy" because of its occasionally heavy plots and the absence of studio audience or laugh tracks.
Coleman hates the word. "It's so cute. It's really getting on everyone's nerves."
Nerves were tested more than once in the early weeks of production. Tarses felt the show was becoming too hard edged. He ordered a three-part episode that co-starred Shirley Jones in a romantic interlude with Slap to help soften things.
" I didn't want him to become less irascible,"Coleman says. "I wanted his targets of irascibility to be different."
He wants Slap to be mean to mean people-to scrape a key across the finish of a car someone has parked in two spaces in a crowded lot.
" That's funny to me," says Coleman, who admits he has done that in real life. "In my opinion , people don't respond enough like that. Of course, it's neurotic on my part. Don't think I don't know that."
Nowadays he's happy to sit at his favorite cafe and contemplate the start of baseball season. His baseball announcer pal Bob Uecker of Mr. Belvedere has coaxed him into the booth when the Milwaukee Brewers play the California Angels in Anaheim in May.
"I'm going to do it. I love it. Baseball is coming back. My personality changes. I've got a little smile on my face."
For more on The Slap Maxwell Story go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Slap_Maxwell_Story
For a Page dedicated to the Slap Maxwell Story go to http://nostalgiacentral.com/television/tv-by-decade/tv-shows-1980s/slap-maxwell-story-the/
To watch the opening credits go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x7e7_TvrIlE
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Keywords: Slap Maxwell Story: Cast Photo (Links Updated 7/21/18)