Budding Writer, 1979: Channeling ‘Animal House’ — Delta debut

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Only four days after I got the idea to write about the “Animal House” spinoffs, there I was in a dark, beery, homemade home theater.

On any given weekend night these beat-up Naugahyde sofas would become temporary guest lodging, a make-out room (although we had another closer to the tap room), a place to sleep off the beer pong, or sometimes all three.

And ours was the first coed fraternity on campus! That made us sophisticated and sensible and safe.

But this was a Thursday night, usually down time for pong parties. Robin Williams’ “Mork and Mindy” was popular, which is why ABC chose it as a lead-in to its official “Animal House” spinoff, “Delta House.” There I was, beer in one hand, notebook in the other (which made it hard to write), eagerly anticipating the debut of a hilarious new series — and, perhaps, my professional writing career.

I hadn’t even sent my query letter out yet because, well, I needed to see what kind of reaction we would get and whether it would be worth writing about. And at the end of the show, I still wasn’t sure:

On my TV Guide research, I watched Mork + Mindy and the Delta House pilot in a surprisingly quiet, yet crowded, tube room. (Potential programming problem: Delta House airs on Saturdays, Brothers + Sisters on Fridays?)

Howard W. Fielding, “Journal, Volume II,” 18 January 1979

I’m not sure what I saw as a problem with two similar shows airing on Friday and Saturday nights, unless it was because the tube room wouldn’t be available for sleeping off the pong.

I should have been more curious about the “surprisingly quiet, yet crowded” tube room. This was clearly the best of the three campus comedies to launch that season. It was the rightful family heir to “Animal House,” with most of the same production team and cast. Why wasn’t an instant success?

The best explanation comes from IMDB.com, where actor Peter Fox, who played Otter in the movie and the series, commented:

Having played Otter in the series, I can tell you that despite all of our best efforts ABC insisted on programing it in the family hour. Since the humour of Animal House was irreverent and raunchy and the family hour wouldn’t allow that, we were in effect, castrated.

Peter Fox, IMDB.com

Yeah, that’s not the kind of thing you want to bring up in a fraternity, even a coed one.

2 thoughts on “Budding Writer, 1979: Channeling ‘Animal House’ — Delta debut

What do you think? Let me know here. Comments are moderated, and I'll respond as soon as I can. Thanks!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.