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1970s / Hot L Baltimore - Sitcom Flop 1975
ABC had high hopes when its risque and controversial sitcom Hot L Baltimore debuted in 1975. Ultimately, though, the show never captured the hearts of TV viewers and was summarily axed less than five months into its run. The show, based on a successful off-Broadway play, took place in the rundown Hotel Baltimore in Baltimore, MD. It drew its title from the cheap establishment's neon marquee, which had a burned-out letter "e" that had never been replaced. The half-hour series premiered on January 24, 1975 and was produced by Norman Lear for ABC. (It was, in fact, the first Lear property to air on ABC.) The cast included Conchata Ferrell, James Cromwell, Richard Masur, Al Freeman, Jr., Gloria LeRoy, Jeannie Linero, and Charlotte Rae. The show's plots focused on the lives of the odd assemblage of disparate characters who called the seedy hotel home. The series had several controversial elements, including two primary characters who were prostitutes--one of whom was an illegal immigrant--and one of the first gay couples to be depicted on an American television series. Because of its storylines, Hot L Baltimore was the first network television show to have a warning during its opening, cautioning viewers about mature themes. ABC gave Hot L Baltimore a full publicity campaign, but it failed to win an audience and was canceled after just 13 episodes; its last telecast was June 6, 1975. This series is notable as the first failure for producer Norman Lear after a very successful streak of mega-hit TV series beginning with All in the Family in 1971 and continuing with Sanford and Son, Maude, Good Times, and The Jeffersons, among others.