Where the Ladies Go," ABC's made-for-TV movie offering tonight (Channel 7 at 9) is the sort of thing you might watch if you were struck in a motel in Toledo by yourself and it was raining outside and the other channels were playing reruns of "Love Boat." There could not be any other reason to watch it.
It's about a bar in Oklahoma that is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. so that bored housewives can have someplace lively to go and dance and perhaps romance. The El Fidel is modeled after several real-life bars in Texas, Minnesota and Los Angeles. The plot, such as it is, revolves around five housewives and their misadventures there.
"Let me tell you about women," says Earl Holliman, who plays Buck the bar-owner. "They're simple as you and me . . . trouble is, we've always had this double standard." Buck calls the El Fidel a "human cafeteria" and says his customers are all "hungry"
What they all are is self-indulgent, petulant malcontents with the moral fiber of rabbits.
Presumably the viewer is meant to be touched by the emptiness of their lives. But the characters are so trashy and unappealing as people that one ends up wishing they would just shut up and go volunteer at the Red Cross, or something. Their appearance and behavior are so raunchy it is hard to care about them; and the one woman who has a genuine problem -- losing her job and having to support three children -- is so cloying that you can hardly wait for her to get off the screen.
There's Karen Black, wearing pants so tight she walks like a chicken with broken ankles, whose husband is a brute won't pay attention to her except to smack her around. She ends up trying to kill herself after discovering that an insurance salesman she blithely picked up and hopped into bed with thinks -- not surprisingly -- that she's a hooker.
Then there's a fat lady who's mad at her husband because he wants her to lose weight -- so she goes dancing with an adoring Mexican half her size.
In between the raunch, we get such philosophical gems as: "It's Fantasy Island -- but we can get hurt here just like we get everywhere else." Or, from Buck: "It has to do with their lives, with the stupidity of their lives don't you see?" I do, I do.
In the end, the bar is appropriately trashed by a bull let loose by Charlene's irate husband.
Buck promises to reopen soon.
Sorry, pal, not on my television, you won't.