It’s always interesting to look at how a show was promoted and received at the time of broadcast. Whoopi Goldberg had previously starred in a sitcom for CBS, Bagdad Cafe, but she returned to the format in 2003 for NBC’s Whoopi.

Continuing the bewildering tradition of naming a sitcom after the star, who in turn plays a character with a completely different name, Whoopi owes a small debt to Fawlty Towers.

Mavis Rae had a one hit wonder in the 80s, and leveraged that success into financing the purchase of a hotel in New York. Joining her in the cast were Omid Djalili as an Iranian handyman, Wren T Brown as her conservative brother, and Elizabeth Regan as the brother’s new girlfriend. Sounds like a Norman Lear set up to me.

I watched the opening scenes, and it’s rather good. Whoopi is unsuprisingly charming, as are Omid and her brother. There’s plenty of laughs, the performances are good, the audience gets it right away, and there’s a lot of potential there.

So why did it only run for one season?

We know why Bagdad Cafe ended so abruptly … Whoopi quit the show suddenly after a falling out with a producer.

Cafe’ Closes: “Bagdad Cafe,” the CBS comedy starring Whoopi Goldberg and Jean Stapleton, has gone out of production, CBS confirmed Monday. Sources close to the show say production shut down after a dispute between Goldberg and the show’s co-executive producer, Thad Mumford, during a Nov. 16 taping. A CBS spokeswoman said the network had not yet determined a date the show would go off the air. Goldberg’s representatives had no immediate comment on the matter.

Los Angeles Times, Novemember 27th 1990

As for Whoopi, it’s harder to tell. It didn’t seem to click with viewers, for whatever reason, in spite of some positive reviews from the likes of The Baltimore Sun, and some less positive ones from the likes of Entertainment Weekly.

About the only promising note is that the Turners and Goldberg recently recruited Larry Wilmore, the immensely talented producer behind both ”The Bernie Mac Show” and ”The PJs”; maybe he can bring some more nuance and timely relevance to the subjects Whoopi wants to muck around in. As it is, Goldberg has settled for what she has for far too long: posing as an obstreperous rebel when she’s really just a Hollywood square.

Entertainment Weekly, September 19th 2003

A mainstream, prime time sitcom with a predominantly non-white cast deserved a much longer run for sure.

The opening joke about smoking in the workplace seems to have caused a minor furore, including an article in the LA Times.

As it was, the show was quietly cancelled at the end of its one and only season.

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