Probably the most trenchant line spoken in the premiere of the new CBS sitcom "House Calls" is uttered by a rich woman pretending to be sick. "I was watching television," she says, "and suddenly I felt nauseous."
Like most TV programs, "House Calls," based on the hit comedy film and premier at 9:30 tonight on Channel 9, is too bland to cause anything with so high a definition as nausea. Instead one just gets that old sinking feeling; here we sink again.
The self-reliant and businesslike hospital administrator played in the film by Glenda Jackson is played in the very attractive and competent substitute. But the crusty and rumpled surgeon played by Walter Matthau has been homogenized into a human dimple played by the relentlessly innocuous Wayne Rogers.
What results is a hospital comedy not only antiseptic but anesthetized.
Providing some relief, in the pilot written by series creators Max Shulman and Julius J. Epstein, is the codgerly chief of surgery played by david Wayne. "New here, aren't you, nurse?" he asks a 26-year veteran of his won staff, and later he mistakes a patient's visiting wife for a surgery case, barking to an aide, "Get this woman upstairs and shave her body!"
Unfortunately, most of the screen time is occupied by cute spats between Rogers and Redgrave. Times being what they are and television's lust for sterotypes being the insatiable thing that it is, much alleged amusement is wrung from sex-role reversals; Rogers, inexplicably, is continually being propositioned by women who find him irresistible. It's as boring as it is preposterous.
"Kensington General Hospital," where these anemic antics take place, looks severely underpopulated in the usual cheap series manner, but instead of Muzak they have an eagerly gurgling laugh track that sounds as though it was recorded underwater. In 1961.