"Flying High" should have been called "Aiming Low." Usually, CBS panders on a slightly more rarified plane than the other networks, but it's at ground zero with this cut - rate flight of fancy. Planting three Charlie's Cherubs onboard a love boat of the skies may be a commercial inevitability, but it could have been done much less listlessly than this.
The program is tolerable only if viewed as a documentary on the primitive inner workings of TV executives' minds or on the desperation of producers attempting to co-opt proven formulas.
It premiers with a two-hour pilot tonight at 9 on Channel 9, then returns in September as a series of one-hour shows about three adorable and curvaceous stewardesses and how they flew. If bosoms were brains, they would be graduating class at MIT.
Each week they will bounce through romantic turbulence to a happy landing. In addition, on tonight's premier, they make a couple of visits to the "stew" training school for brushups on pillow fluffing. There we meet Marcia Wallace (of "The Bob Newhart Show") as supervisor Connie Martin. This robotic role was obviously written for a poor woman's Eve Arden, and Wallace, who's better than that, wisely walked off the show after completing the first episode and will not be seen again.
The three novice stewardesses are all types with capital T's: Pat Klous as Marcy Bower, the country hick ("Y'all know how boring it is looking at cow's udder all day?"); Kathryn Witt as Pam, an Italian from a large family who's avidly husband-hunting ("I'm looking for a Protestant"); and Connie Sellecca as wealthy but bored Lisa Benton ("I'm tired being part of this idle rich").
For all the glory of their physical dimensions the three women are stick figures and their lives emotion free. Sexual innuendos alone hardly suffice to make a program "adult" in appeal, and this program suggests nothing more adult than Giget. Tammy and Barbie taking their vows as flying nuns.
Unless one finds the mere sight of a woman in a bathing suit somehow corrupting, there's no cause for moral alarm over "Flying" or the other girlie shows. Putting females on parade is a venerable entertainment form; in effect, the bevy of beauties on TV is no more salaciously suggestive than the crowds of chorines in old Busby Berkeley pictures. But at least Buzz had something else going on. He had music. He had dancing. And compared to the plot of "Flying High," he even had a point to make.
That is to say, this program represents another regression of the television industry's estimation of the nation's taste in frivolous escapism.
In "Flying High" the ladies do launch into bust exercise, then strip for "some rays," during stewardess training. But the tone of sexuality is always kept studiously coy and antiseptic and, what's worse, though the program specializes in titillation, it comes out foursquare behind traditional if hypocritical TV series morality.
Thus Jim Hutton as Paul Mitchell, who tries to seduce each stewardess in turn, succeeds with only one and then after she learns that he spends his day helping needy children and that he has never been to bed with anyone except his ex-wife.
"Sex isn't everything, you know," he tells her.
That's the bit of news that for some curious reason penetrates her heretofore impenetrable defenses.
"Sex is nothing unless you know the person and unless you care for them," she recites.
The pulpit for this sermon of patronizing baloney, however, is nothing more noble than a TV peep show so the effect is like openly practicing drunkenness while solemnly preaching the thrills of temperance.
The program also holds up as role model people for whom sexual activity is conceivable only it is made to seem as cuddly-cute as a baby's fanny. So that just before Mitchell finally scores with little Pammy, she wows him with an unlikely mating rite: an impersonation of R2-D2.
"Beep, beep," she twinkles. "Beep," he answers. "Beep, beep, beep," she chirps.
It was precisely at this point that constant viewer reached for his airsick bag.