NBC is not using industrial strength Rinso in its campaign to clean up the airwaves. During October alone, the network has aired or will air new TV movies with the titles, "Secrets of Three Hungry Wives," "Desperate Women" and "Katie: Portrait of a Centerfold." Ooh, la-la.
Of course the movies we'd really like to see on TV are "Secrets of Three Hungry Networks," or "Desperate Programmers." Tonight, however,it is NBC's "Katie" who sulks into the spotlight in a two-hour film at 9 on Channel 4.
Despite the lurid title, "Katie" doesn't deliver much in the way of actual titillation; that's part of the built-in hypocrisy of the genre. The film, written by Nancy Audley and directed by Robert Greenwald, presents us with another inconceivably naive and innocent heroine who is shocked out of her skin every time a man so much as makes goo-goo eyes at her.
So where does she go? To Hollywood, to be a star. As a tale of disillusion and dissipation in the plastic apple, however, "Katie" is much less fun than such slap-happy trash as "The Carpetbaggers" and clearly inferior to NBC's own movies "Dawn: Portrait of a Teen-Age Runaway" and Alexander: The Other Side of Dawn," both shown last year.
These shows seem designed to reassure Mr. and Mrs. America that Hollywood is indeed the wicked place they tell their children it is, but the films never really get into the more pernicious and mercurial forms of corruption that permit projects like "Katie" to get on the air and to tie up a lot of talent that should be working on something worthwhile.
In "Katie," the talent includes a winning assortment of old and new timers; youth is represented by model Kim Basinger - quite acceptable as Katie, considering the inconsistencies in the script - and Melanie Mayron (of the current film "Girl Friends"), highly likeable as her kooky pal "Madeleine the Magic Lady." She entertains at parties but no, she tells a caller, she does not give messages.
Among the oldsters are Dorothy Malone, Vivian Blaine, Fabian and Tab Hunter, who contributes a juicy parody of a preening lech. When he tries to seduce Katie in front of four working television sets, she squeaks, "I don't buh-LIEVE this."
The script toys with the idea of sex objectification in America without making a single trenchant aside, much less a comment. The author's idea of a stunner finds Katie returned to her tiny town in Texas and leaping up on the local lunch counter to castigate the dirty old good ol' boys for leering at her. "A body! A body!" she shrieks. Then she and Madeleine go off on a motorcycle to New York - to escape from sin and sinners. Quel bilge!