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Arliss (1996-2002)

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In 1996, HBO shot a TV movie called Arli$$, about a super sports agent that gets himself and his clients, in and out of a plethora of trouble, generally figuring out a way to make a half million on the other end. Apparently the movie was pretty good - not good enough to actually show on HBO perhaps, but good enough to work on and forge a decent sitcom out of. Starring Robert Wuhl (who has been in every decent baseball movie of the past twenty years) as Arliss Michaels, the show has run a full season every year since 1996, bringing in decent (but not great) ratings and some fair acclaim. With a regular host of sports celebrity cameos, Arli$$ would have been killed off after season one had it been running on a network, but channels like HBO are changing the rules in the TV world by giving their projects time to find an audience, build their characters and find their groove. The ABC’s and NBC’s of the world will drop a good show after six weeks if it’s not blasting the competition with big numbers, but HBO, Lifetime, Pax, Showtime, these companies can see the value in letting a project find it’s way. Arli$$ may never have anything more than a core cult fan-base, but it’s consistently quality writing ensures that, at the very least, HBO’s weakest sitcom is still a long way ahead of the networks’ best. And if you want to see Arliss’ personal assistant, Rita Wu (Sandra Oh) in her birthday suit, you need to look for Dancing at the Blue Iguana, which also features a topless Daryl Hannah and Jennifer Tilly. Choice!