Arli$$ – seasons one and two

Arli$$ was an HBO comedy series that aired from 1996-2002. For many years it was impossible to find this show at all. It wasn’t even issued on DVD except on a “Best of Arli$$” set that included only about a dozen random episodes out of the 80 that aired, including none at all from seasons two and three.

The streaming services have rectified that. There are so many of them, all thirsty for content, all in competition, that they have caused many a drowned series to resurface, often in HD. Arli$$ is one of the beneficiaries of that thirst, as it is now available on HULU in its entirety. The Arli$$ episodes are even available in 1080hd, but it’s not really the kind of top quality you would find on a Blu-Ray or on a 2021 series. That’s fine with me. It’s better than anything we had before, which for some episodes was nothing at all.

I enjoyed the series enough to stay with it. It’s about an ethically challenged, but fundamentally good-hearted sports agent who goes to great lengths to acquire and retain clients. Although Arliss Michaels is a cynical schemer, he is also sentimental, so the series has a lot of heart to go with the satire and raunchy jokes. And it could get very raunchy and politically incorrect, with as much locker room humor as we might expect from a show that regularly took place in actual locker rooms. The show could also get surprisingly serious. For a series from a quarter-century ago, it was remarkably prescient in dealing with homosexuality, discrimination, steroid abuse, greed, strikes, exploitation, female equality, and other issues that plague sports today.

I also enjoyed seeing so many jocks, owners, announcers and managers making cameo appearances, especially when they poked fun at themselves. The jocks of that era were good enough sports about appearing on the show, but I especially appreciated seeing the real old-timers like Yogi, Phil Rizzuto, Jim Brown, Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson and Ernie Banks.

16 of the 80 shows contained female nudity, but many of those were either unidentified background characters or D-list performers you have never heard of. I’ll be covering the entire series (with clips in the Funhouse, of course), and I’ll elaborate when there is something of special interest.

Season 1, Episode 5

A scheming owner pretends that she is moving her hockey team from LA, but she’s really just running a bluff to coax the local authorities to build a new arena for her club. She tricks Arliss into helping her by making him some pie-in-the-sky promises – the presidency of the club and a minority stake in the franchise. Las Vegas is one of the cities allegedly under consideration for the team’s new home, and the local wheeler-dealer in Sin City treats Arliss and his cohorts to a Vegas-style sales pitch that includes two uncredited topless showgirls.

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SIDEBAR: the conniving owner was played by Stella Stevens, who is no stranger to fans of celebrity nudity, but remained fully clothed in this show.

Season 2, Episode 1

A woman named Saveza Landers gave a lap dance to one of Arliss’s clients. She had only one line, and this is her only IMDb credit.

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Season 2, Episode 4

One of Arliss’s clients was a naive tennis prodigy. Arliss wanted him to turn pro, but the lad’s mother wanted him to get a college degree. It was thus incumbent upon our favorite sneaky agent to make sure the kid was so distracted that he would flunk out of school ASAP. After all, there’s no money in 5% of a sheepskin. Since the boy had never gotten laid, it was a simple matter for lovely Jamie Anderson to provide the necessary distraction. Amazingly, the clever plot had several twists and turns after that ostensibly simple set-up!

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Season 2, Episode 8

This was the nudity highlight of the first two seasons. Andrea Thompson played a theatrical agent who provided consulting services to Arliss in an attempt to bring diversity and fresh ideas to the Arliss Michaels Agency. Andrea and Robert Wuhl (Arliss) had an easy chemistry onscreen. Wuhl can sing a little and play the piano, so he was able to move from the sports world into the theatrical world without a problem. The two agents sang together, made love, conspired, smoked cigars, argued and ultimately went their own ways. I couldn’t blame Arliss for falling in love with her. By the end of the episode, I was pretty close to being in love myself – and I’ve never been an Andrea Thompson fan. Andrea looked more beautiful here than I’ve ever see her before, and she showed off a stone-hard killer body.

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12 thoughts on “Arli$$ – seasons one and two

  1. Since you’re posting video captures of The Hockey Girls, an old Canadian show worth checking out (if it’s available on video), although about ice hockey, is a French Canadian show called Lance Et Compte, which translates into English as ‘He Shoots, He Scores’ a phrase originated by Hockey Night in Canada broadcaster Foster Hewitt.

    The show aired in the late 1980s and was most famous in Canada for having the nudity that aired in the Quebec version edited out of the English version. I understand it was a pretty good show as well.

  2. Reminds me of Norm MacDonald as Letterman:

    Dave: Have you seen the Arliss, Paul? Do you like the Arliss?
    Paul: Aaah! Ha!
    Dave: Are you familiar with this, Paul? The Arliss? Have you seen this?
    Paul: Aaah! Ha! Ha!

  3. The old time HBO series I would love to revisit is Dream On. But I have been unable to find it available to stream anywhere. You would think Dream On (and Arli$$ for that matter) would be available on HBO Max. Or Peacock since the show was distributed by Universal. It should be available somewhere, because it isn’t making anyone any money locked up in the vault. My best guess is that all the old black and white clips that appear throughout the show are the problem. When the contracts were drawn up for use of those clips, it may (and again this is just a guess) have only included use in broadcasts and home video, not streaming. Maybe it was something missing from the actor’s contracts. Such issues could be worked through, but maybe they don’t see sufficient money in the streaming rights to make it worth the trouble. Seasons 1 & 2 were released on DVD, but are no longer available. I am guessing they didn’t sell all that well or they would have released seasons 3 through 6.

      1. Dream on, Scoop. Dream on.

        Seriously though, this gives me a chance to comment on something you said a few days back, but the comments were closed before I saw yours.

        You were hoping for some streaming service to start running the great series. Harry-O. Couldn’t agree more. It was one of the best shows ever, and it died a premature death. Would love to see those classic episodes again.

        1. I think there was some dust in my eyes during the show when Manny died.

          What was so amazing about Harry-O: halfway through the first season, they screwed up everything that made the show unique, and everything I loved about it. It was no longer in San Diego. Harry no longer took public transportation. Harry suddenly got his physical ailments cured so he could run and fight like any ordinary TV private eye. Therefore, I expected to hate the retooling, and yet the second version was just as good as the first, albeit in different ways. Although Harry himself was no longer a unique character, the show scored with the addition of Anthony Zerbe as Trench, as well as with that guy who played Lester, the doofus criminology student who worshiped Harry, much to Harry’s perpetual annoyance.

          And pre-Angels Farrah! So cute. So appealing.

          1. You are so right. I didn’t discover the show until it had moved to L.A., loved it that way, then caught up with the San Diego episodes in late night reruns. Both versions of the show were absolutely terrific. Lester was a great character!

      2. There are places where all 6 seasons are available, just not legally. The law is the law, but I have no sympathy for rights holders that don’t offer a legal way to view their content. A couple of weeks before she died, my hospitalized mother asked if there was a way for her to watch Song of the South. She had loved that movie since she first saw it as a 6-year-old. Now I realize all the reasons that Disney can’t make that film available and I can’t really blame them. But those reasons weren’t enough to keep me from finding a way for her to watch it.

        What I wonder about is how vigorously Disney defends its copyright. A few weeks ago, I watched the pilot for the 1978 Dack Rambo series Sword of Justice on YouTube. I remembered really liking that show as a kid. It had clearly been uploaded from an old videotape making me kind of doubt it had been uploaded legally. There are quite a few old TV series and movies not available on DVD or streaming services that are available like that on YouTube. If a studio has no intention of offering a legal way to watch old shows like Sword of Justice the least they can do is not make YouTube take them down.

        1. Disney defends its copyrights with the utmost vigor. In fact, at least two copyright law changes were due in large part to their lobbying; one in 1976, and the marvelously named “Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998”. See here for my understanding of their influence.

          I know this because I used to read a silent movie forum on Usenet, and those guy were seriously pissed off that these changes kept many silent movies out of the public domain for decades.

          Also, NEVER talk to them about whether Charlie Chaplin was a Communist or just a “premature anti-Fascist”. They had raging blow-ups about that.

          1. There is an obscure little pub here in Appleton, Wisconsin called “Grumpy’s.” Back in the 80s, their lighted sign featured a recognizable image of the Disney dwarf by that name. Disney’s lawyers even went after that guy. While they didn’t seek damages, they did spend a lot of money litigating a mandatory change. Appleton Grumpy was able to keep the bar’s name, and it stands there to this day, but he had to change his logo to a generic grump, and then (for reasons unknown to me) to a grumpy bear.

            (The first thing he did was to paint over Grumpy’s face on the original sign with a cloud and a question mark. I guess that was to satisfy the mouse-house until he could create a new sign.)

            Actually, the pub now risks incurring the wrath of god, or Walt, or at least of Khan, because their Facebook page pictures a B&W pic of their original sign.

  4. I remember one brutal episode where I guess they were trying to flip the script on date rape. He gets unexpectedly violated with a strap-on from, if memory serves, a female body builder.

    1. Yup. That happened in the final season (s7e6). The part was played by a real bodybuilder, Carla Haug

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