Writers for six years at “Knots Landing,” Lynn Marie Latham and Bernard Lechowick have built a summer sand castle whose structure may be lots more substantial than it seems. They’ve created people who indulge in some bizarre antics, but “Hotel Malibu,” in for six chapters, could attract enough interest to reopen its doors when there’s a spot on CBS’ schedule.
Format involves Joanna Cassidy as widow Ellie Mayfield, Hotel Malibu owner; her son Jack (John Dye), a crook who’s trying to sell the place by making Mom think the business is going under; and his sister Stevie Mayfield (Cheryl Pollak), who, a flop in business, comes home to work at the hotel.
Hearing the news that the hotel’s buckling, Stevie starts nosing around — and finds some glaring boners. In the first hour, color the Mayfield family bland, but the possibilities are open ended (for six weeks, at least). Another family, the Radzimskis, kick up more interest than the Mayfields. Honest hotel bartender Harry (Harry O’Reilly) and his con artist sister Nancy (Romy Walthall) , no better than she should be, add vigor to the first hour. Nancy, against Harry’s intentions, starts working at the hotel in housekeeping, obviously not her aim in life.
Harry Radzimski and Stevie Mayfield have a good scene in a stuck elevator, but the real grabber is when Nancy, loving an influential man to death, has to call in brother Harry to help move the corpse in a laundry hamper. Writers’ idea was a chancy one, but it pays off.
Jennifer Lopez limns Melinda, inexperienced bartender who starts working with Harry, and Pepe Serna is her indignant, proud father. So far it’s a clumsy entry.
“Hotel Malibu” offers a couple of commercially valid people and a shot at good ensemble storytelling. O’Reilly’s well-intentioned Harry and Walthall as his seductive, opportunistic sister, who keeps her sense of humor and proportions, are the eye-catchers in this first stand.
Cassidy makes Ellie potentially interesting, if she wakes up. Director Sharron Miller has given theintro hour life, hope and some wit. Tech credits are pro, with Mark Mothersbaugh handing in an accommodating score.
It may not be the Ritz, but “Hotel Malibu,” confronted by reality shows on the other nets, looks like a comfy summer place to register.