Steambath is an American sitcom on Showtime that presented the afterlife as a steam bath. It was adapted from the Off-Broadway play by Bruce Jay Friedman and featured three cast members and the director from the 1973 PBS TV adaptation.

Created byBruce Jay Friedman
Based onSteambath (play)
StarringJose Perez
Robert Picardo
Al Ruscio
Neil J. Schwartz
Patrick Spohn
Rita Taggart
Janis Ward
Allen Williams
Theme music composerDavid Frishberg
ComposerArtie Butler
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes6
Executive producersJoe Byrne
Jeb Rosebrook
Elias Davis
David Pollock
ProducerJerry Madden
CinematographyGeorge Spiro Dibie
Running time30
Production companyJoe Byrne/Falrose Productions
Original release
ReleaseAugust 16 (1984-08-16) –
October 11, 1984 (1984-10-11)

Series overview edit

This show presents the afterlife as a steam bath in which recently deceased souls continue to obsess about the same petty concerns that obsessed them in their lives. Ultimately, they are cast into another room offstage which is represented by a dark void by God, the steambath's Puerto Rican attendant. The characters who originated in the play are allowed to stay as various others pass through each week.

Production edit

Producer Joe Byrne caught the 1973 PBS television production and saw the potential for a weekly series, so he convinced an executive at Warner Bros. to option the rights.[1] All three American TV networks loved it and were keen on keeping Jose Perez as God, but Byrne refused to tone down the material[1] so the project sat in limbo until 1983 when Warner Bros. commissioned author Dan Greenburg to create a script.[2] Greenburg loosely adapted the play and added the character of Blanche to serve as a "romantic interest" for Morty,[2] although their relationship was never explored by David Pollack and Elias Davis, who wrote the rest of the episodes. It was picked up by Showtime, which broadcast the show as a companion to their other new sitcom, Brothers.[2]

In addition to Perez, Neil J. Schwartz & Patrick Spohn returned from the PBS adaptation as the flamboyant songsters simply known as The Young Men, and Burt Brinckerhoff directed three of the six episodes. Although created as a standard sitcom, the show was shot on a closed set[1] and included a laugh track. As with the play and PBS special, profanity and nudity were included, but this caused concern at Showtime, which insisted on whittling some of it out.[3]

Cast and characters edit

  • Jose Perez as Morty - Also known as God and Morte, Morty is an eccentric Puerto Rican who finds comfort in the menial labor of being a steambath attendant. He frequently takes detours from custodial duties and speaks commands into his computer to both do good for and wreak havoc upon the lives of humans.
  • Robert Picardo as Rodney Tandy - A P.R. executive with a 6-year-old daughter who recently got divorced, Tandy was excited about beginning a new chapter of his life, only to discover it was cut short.
  • Al Ruscio as Davinci - A crotchety old cab driver with a penchant for speaking in sexual innuendo.
  • Janis Ward as Meredith - A free-spirited young woman who lacks sexual hangups but has never had an orgasm, Meredith was electrocuted in her bathtub while attempting to adjust her TV.
  • Neil J. Schwartz & Patrick Spohn as The Two Young Men - Reprising their roles from the PBS production, these unnamed flamboyant gay characters make quips in unison and randomly break into a song-and-dance number (which Schwartz also choreographed) in every episode.
  • Rita Taggart as Blanche - Morty's assistant is an original character created for this series.
  • Allen Williams as Gottlieb - Morty's personal butler who caters to his every frivolous whim.

Episodes edit

No. in
Title Directed by Written by Original air date
11"In the Beginning"Burt BrinckerhoffDan Greenburg
Bruce Jay Friedman (uncredited - adapted from his play)
August 16, 1984 (1984-08-16)
In this reworked version of the play, Rod Tandy finds himself in a steambath and grapples with the discovery that he's dead.
Guest Stars: Libby Boone (Barbara), Charles Lanyer (Walter Ackerman)
Song: Just One of Those Things
22"A Visit from Yuri"Terry HughesElias DavisSeptember 13, 1984 (1984-09-13)
A combative radio psychologist tries to analyze Morty. Meanwhile, Meredith has her first orgasm with a Russian cosmonaut.
Guest Stars: Richard Brestoff (Yuri), Claudette Nevins (Dr. Blossom Jennings)
Song: I Got Rhythm
33"Tandy's Legacy"Terry HughesDavid Pollock & Elias DavisSeptember 20, 1984 (1984-09-20)
Morty agrees to let Tandy attend a gala that he'd been anticipating, but the mood is ruined when former coworker Paul, who had an affair with Tandy's wife, unexpectedly arrives at the steambath. Meanwhile, Davinci rekindles an old romance with a prostitute.
Guest Stars: Peter Scolari (Paul), Jeannie Linero (Juanita), David Eric (Scott), Ted Chapman (The Drunk), Tanya Fenmore (Tandy's Daughter), Leslie Morris (The Waiter)
Song: You Make Me Feel So Young
44"The Big Bang"Burt BrinckerhoffElias DavisSeptember 27, 1984 (1984-09-27)
Meredith throws a surprise party to cheer up Morty, which only upsets him more, so he decides to destroy the Earth. Meanwhile, Blanche schemes to take advantage of the services of a recently deceased plastic surgeon.
Guest Stars: Duncan Ross (Professor William Veerdlieb), Richard Venture (Dr. Eglin)
Song: Ain't We Got Fun?
55"Madison Avenue Madness"Burt BrinckerhoffDavid Pollock & Elias DavisOctober 4, 1984 (1984-10-04)
Morty collects taxes, feuding comedy partners arrive, and Tandy is smitten with a horny woman until he learns how she died.
Guest Stars: Alex Rocco (Tom Devon), Barbara Babcock (Wanda Blakely), Dick Shawn (Frankie Melnick)
Song: Lullaby of Broadway
66"A Preacher and a Jock"Terry HughesDavid PollockOctober 11, 1984 (1984-10-11)
When beloved baseball player Chuck Skerrit is criticized for throwing his life away with drugs, Morty conjures scenes from Skerrit's past to prove to everyone that his life wasn't easy. Meanwhile, a reverend finds it impossible to believe that Morty is God.
Guest Star: Steven Williams (Chuck Skerrit), Michael Prince (Reverend Fallows), John Mahon (The Fan), Rob Monroe (The Bartender), Paul Tuerpe (The Player), Lilly Tartikoff (The Ballerina)
Song: I'm Just Wild About Harry

References edit

  1. ^ a b c "Showtime Backstage "Steam Bath" August (1984)". YouTube. 2019-10-21. Archived from the original on 2021-12-28.
  2. ^ a b c Steve Knoll (July 8, 1984). "Situation Comedy Pursues a New Audience". New York Times.
  3. ^ Kay Gordella (July 31, 1984). "Steaming Out of Limbo for Pay-TV". New York Daily News. [Pollock] concedes Showtime has voiced some concern, resulting in some skillfull editing especially of nude scenes. "There's some nudity, but not total nudity and no frontal nudity," said Pollock.

External links edit