"The Life and Times of Eddie Roberts," or, "L.A.T.E.R.," is an attempt at a topical comic serial along the lines of "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman" -- only dirtier. Television does bring out such noble aspirations in "creative" people.
Airing weeknights at 11 on Channel 5 starting tonight, "L.A.T.E.R." details with smirky self-satisfaction the ill winds that buffet its wittering and repulsive hero, many of them having something to do with contemporary sexual phenomena as reflected in such scientific journals as The National Enquirer.
For instance, the very first eposode moves quickly to Eddie's bed, where, after nine years of marriage, he ventures to inquire whether his wife finds him sexually satisfying. She tells him he lacks tenacity -- "90 seconds, two minutes if I'm lucky, and it's all over" -- and summarizes their sexual experiences with the phrase "boom, boom, bang."
The first and, for some reason, the 12th episodes of "L.A.T.E.R." were submitted for preview. In the 12th episode, for the benefit of sensible people who will never make it even half that far, Mrs. Roberts visits a psychiatrist, for help with her sexual problem and -- oh, ho, ho -- again summarizes her husband's technique, as "boom, boom, bang." Obviously we are in the hands of terribly imaginative writers.
Mary Hartman was not precisely a fascinating character, to put it mildly but at least in the course of ducking the slings and arrows of Our Time she progressed and evolved, and the show's writing and its performances had a distinctive, poignant crackle. The most easily engaged mind in the universe, however, couldn't be tricked into caring whether miserable Eddie Roberts succeeds in bed or in his career at Cranepool University or is run over by a Good Humor truck.
About the most the show's producers and occasional writers, Ann and Ellis Marcus, can hope for is that the program will be offensive enough to strike some people as cheeky; it suffers less from waxy yellow buildup than from sticky and derivative "Soap" scum.
Making it all that much more unbearable is the central casting of an actor named Renny Temple as Eddie. Temple is one of those simpering, insipid, clonely and innocuous types who has populated innumerable commercials because to some sick minds he passes for an everyman symbol. Everyman ought to be put straight on the critical list if this is so.
Like the whole production, Temple chomp in hyperemphatic revue style but in that 12th episode, Billy Barty does a delightful turn as a gruff little half-pint of a private eye. Asked sarcastically by a character called Tony whether he has fallen off his trike, Barty barks, "Hey, that tricycle joke is wearing awfully thin, kootchie-koo."
More often, the dialogue is merely blue innuendo, such as Tony's assertion in part one, in his encounters with the opposite sex, "there are times in all honesty when I keep it up for hours." How unamusing can you get? It is possible that "L.A.T.E.R." will develop a cult, but then so did Jim Jones.