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.
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.
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!
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.