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DVD Review: Hotel – The First Season

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The first season of the popular early '80s soap opera/drama/comedy Hotel finally comes to DVD. Based on the popular Arthur Hailey novel and 1967 movie of the same name, Hotel is another enjoyable prime-time soap opera produced by television legend Aaron Spelling. While taking many cues from its lead-in show, Dynasty, Hotel follows a collection of episodic adventures of love, lust, drama, and comedy during the day-to-day happenings at the fictional St. Gregory Hotel in San Fransisco.

The premise is basically a land-based version of The Love Boat placed in a hotel setting. Each episode features cast regulars who work as staff members in the hotel and a vast collection of guest stars. The cast is headed by James Brolin, who plays the well-mannered Peter McDermott, the enjoyable, yet almost-too-good-to-be-true hotel manager. Alongside Peter is Nathan Cook (Billy Griffin), an ex-con turned chief of security, assistant manager Christine Francis (Connie Sellecca), PR manager Mark Danning (Shea Farrell), and others. Cook seems to add the most color to the cast while still bringing a fun performance to the screen. But be sure to watch for legendary star Bette Davis in her television debut. Davis plays hotel owner Laura Trent in the pilot but sadly was unable to continue in the role due to poor health. She was later replaced by Anne Baxter, who played Laura's sister-in-law Victoria Cabot and served as the owner of St. Gregory's Hotel for much of the series' run.

Some of the guest stars featured in this season include Melissa Sue Anderson, Scott Baio, Cathy Lee Crosby, Mary Crosby, Morgan Fairchild, Pamela Hemsley, Ken Howard, Arte Johnson, Martin Landau, George Lazenby, Liberace, Heather Locklear, Bill Macy, Tori Spelling, and Dick Van Patten.

While I'm generally not a fan of soap opera, even ones meant for prime time, I was pleasantly surprised by this show. Hotel is an engaging, well-done show that features just enough suspense, drama, and even comedy to keep viewers interested. The writing is witty and fairly high-quality for television and the acting is superb. Without a doubt the best feature of the series is the show's episodic approach that entwines overarching personal and professional plots about the hotel staff members with the one-shot stories of guest stars who check into the hotel every week. This truly helped bring something fresh to virtually every episode of the show and kept me coming back for each episode and wondering just who was going to check in next.

This DVD set includes all 22 episodes of the first season, plus the two-hour pilot movie, presented in its original full-frame format. While there isn't much else to this set, it's a real treat for fans of the original show to finally get it on DVD -the pilot movie is an especially good touch, considering how rare it is.

While the show isn't too involved and doesn't require much thought on the part of the viewer, it's a frothy, fun look into a world that most people only fantasize about. Fans of the show will be ecstatic to finally get their hands on the first complete season, while fans of soaps (both older and modern) who didn't get the opportunity to check into the Hotel while it was on television should definitely look into it. Trust me, it's worth an extended stay.

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