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HBO series ‘Room 104’ follows in Neil Simon hotel tradition

Melonie Diaz and Ethan Kent in HBO's "Room

Melonie Diaz and Ethan Kent in HBO's "Room 104." Credit: Jordin Althaus

Hotels have many stories, and not just the ones involving stairs.

Case in point: HBO’s anthology series “Room 104” (11:30 p.m., Fridays) takes place in the same hotel room but with new guests checking in with different tales each week. It’s hardly a new concept and no one has had as much suite success with it as Neil Simon.

The playwright came up with the three-stories, one-room idea for his 1968 Broadway hit, “Plaza Suite,” starring George C. Scott and Maureen Stapleton. The three playlets — all set in the Plaza’s Suite 719 — had them playing an unhappily married couple; a lecherous movie producer out to seduce a suburban housewife, and a bickering couple whose daughter has locked herself in the bathroom on her wedding day.

Simon used a similar blueprint for his 1976 follow-up, “California Suite,” which centered on various couples in Suite 203-04 of the Beverly Hills Hotel. Tammy Grimes, George Grizzard, Barbara Barrie and Jack Weston played the characters in stories involving child custody, an unconscious hooker, a nasty doubles tennis match and, best of all, the events on Oscar night.

But not all of Simon’s hotel stays had warm welcomes. His 1995 Off-Broadway effort, “London Suite” — four stories set at a hotel overlooking Hyde Park — checked out after only 169 performances.

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