NEW YORK -- Mr. Bill, the trusting Play-Doh doll with the squeaky voice who was sliced, diced, smashed and mauled by Mr. Sluggo and the evil Mr. Hands on 'Saturday Night Live,' is coming back to television.
But this time around, Mr. Bill will be a real person, played by Peter Scolari, whose track record includes the yuppy talk show producer on 'Newhart' and a man who dresses up as a woman on 'Bosom Buddies.'
The half-hour live action special, with Shelley Duvall as executive producer, airs on the 'Showtime' Comedy Spotlight series Sept. 11 (10 p.m. EDT) and will be repeated four more times in September.
Of all the stars whose careers were launched by SNL, Mr. Bill was the most unlikely.
Walter Williams, an accounting-school dropout in New Orleans, created Mr. Bill with a Super 8 film camera and some colored clay in 1974. He submitted the home movies to 'Saturday Night Live,' and its producers put one on the air.
By the show's fourth season, Mr. Bill had developed such a cult following that SNL honcho Lorne Michaels put Williams under a full-time contract.
For those who have never seen Mr. Bill's films, they are, in essence, a blending of a crude cartoon and a slash movie.
Mr. Bill was innocent and trusting. Mr. Sluggo, a somewhat larger clay character, was mean. Mr. Hands, played by a pair of hands, was a traitor, always tricking Mr. Bill. Maybe he'd make a milkshake and at the last minute throw Mr. Bill in the blender and turn it into a Mr. Billshake.
All the while, Mr. Bill would squeak, 'Ohhhhh, noooooooo.'
During the fifth season of 'Saturday Night Live,' Williams got a call from an old friend, Vance de Generes, who had been the original Mr. Hands in the home movies.
He wanted his name on the copyright and half the profits. A lawsuit was filed in federal court in New Orleans and a two-day hearing followed. In the end, Williams was awarded most of the profits. De Generes did get a small piece of the pie.
At the hearing, even the federal judge couldn't resist abusing Mr. Bill. He pinned a name tag on his robe that read 'Judge Sluggo,' took out a pair of scissors and snipped off Mr. Bill's head. He threw the head to de Generes and the body to Williams.
True to tradition, the new Mr. Bill will take some lumps in the 'Showtime' special. He will be tossed into a garbage dumpster, lost in the woods, sliced in half by a ceiling fan and mired in quicksand.
The special features Mr. Bill, his son, Billy Bill (Christopher Burton), and the Sluggo family as next-door neighbors.
Young Billy is shooting for his Badger Scout Test. If he fails, he won't be able to go to the Kid Scout Father-Son Jamboree. Mr. Bill's attempts to help Billy train for the test backfire in horrible ways.
'Mr. Bill is everybody's favorite victim,' says Gary Keeper of 'Showtime.' 'Our show brings the character to life, optimistically enduring the same cruel injustices that we've come to expect.'