Filmed in London and at Shepperton Studios for Hallmark Entertainment and NBC Entertainment. Executive producer, Robert Halmi St.; producer, Greg Smith; director, Jay Sandrich; writer; Neil Simon; based on the play by Simon; Neil Simon gets a second chance with “London Suite,” an Off Broadway failure last year rewritten for TV and a cast of NBC comedy regulars. He’s jettisoned one of the four one-acts completely, and done substantial surgery on the others. He’s also integrated the stories, more or less, with veteran sitcom director Jay Sandrich cutting smoothly among four couples who have arrived at the tony, not to mention heavily promoted, Grosvenor House. It’s still sub-par Simon, and viewers may experience an unsettling sense of [7mdeja vu[22;27m hearing a kind of boulevard-comedy writing as faded in the memory as boulevards themselves.
Moreover, only a couple of the stars can breathe any life into the proceedings. The most appealing performance comes from Patricia Clarkson, as a British actress passing through to promote her successful American sitcom and for a brief reunion with her ex-husband, who’s long since taken up residence in Greece with a male lover and who needs money. After all these years Diana is still under Sidney’s spell, though “Frasier’s” Kelsey Grammer — Man- Tanned a shade of burnt orange that almost glows — is utterly charmless in the part. (The wonderful Paxton Whitehead, who appears here as a hotel doctor, originated the role, so at least what we’re missing is knowable). Simon has toned down Diana’s drinking and built up her empathy, and Clarkson is terrific.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, on the other hand, is endlessly annoying as a sniffly newlywed who’s misplaced her husband (Jonathan Silverman, not there — much). Simon has excised the family risk factor from the widow-daughter team of Madeline Kahn and Margot Steinberg, reducing their contribution to a shopping spree until Richard Mulligan appears as a Scottish character only alluded to in the original and who was better off left unheard from.
The last pair are Julie Hagerty and “Seinfeld’s” Michael Richards, an odd couple in town for Wimbledon but waylaid by missing tickets and his trick back. Hagerty is endearing in a trademark performance as a fragile, put-upon wife. But Richards is out of his league playing a character who must elicit our sympathy while spending most of the time on the floor of his room being misused by various hotel employees. The role demands a dancer’s grace, not Richards’ tic-ridden coarseness.
“London Suite” is better written but less well played on TV than it was onstage. It still falls short of Simon’s earlier hotel plays, “Plaza Suite” ( 1968) and “California Suite” (1976).