A better title for "That's My Line" might be, maybe, "Sick Society." The CBS entry in the amazingly incrediable, real-people, variety freak-show genre, premiering tonight at 8 on Channel 9, lurches impishly from a feature about a man who teaches other men "how to pick up girls" for quick sex to a fey hunk of sleazery about a Topeka, Kan., clothing store where men strip down to their underpants while women ogle and shriek at them.
Bob Barker, a tediously ubiquitous game-show host who has all the depth and warmth of the snapshots given away with wallets (you get the feeling a suit was cloned and he just came along with it), emcees this long, long hour of forced frivolity about "assisstance of cooing cutie-pies Tiiu Leek and Suzanne Childs. The program ends with a maudlin uplifter about a blind carpenter, but basically it's another monomaniacal titillation derby.
Advice from the pickup artist is certainly going to change the lives of millions of women-hungry men. "Tell her she's a special person," he counsels." He also suggests such guaranteed bed-warmers as "You know,there's something special about you" and "I'll call you next week; we'll have lunch."
Hey, any guy who can't score with zingers like that has to be dead, right?
"Now don't go away, we'll have lots more surprises," says Barker before the commercial, only to be followed immediately by announcer Jonny ("Come on down!") Olson who says, "Coming up -- a shopping spree in the world's sexiest clothing store. So don't go away!"
Could it be that aberrant fallout from the sexual revolution finds its way into places like Topeka only because entrepreneurs know that if they're weird and wacky enough they're sure to attract the attention of sensation-seeking TV camera crews? Virtually all the soft-news and magazine shows have devoted adequate if not excessive time to male strippers and their female fans; this trip to a clothing store where women buy the shirts off men's backs is gratuitousness itself.
But then the woman reporter contributes such meaningful commentary to the models' gryations: "The guys . . . just keep movin' the merchandise," she says, and of a muscular man undulating in gold lame briefs she marvels, "Wow, look at his sales technique!" Wouldn't a similarly leering piece of ooh-la-la about woman strippers generate torrents of protest mail from viewers? o
Barker is his slick, icky self throughout this laboriously chipper Goodson-Todman production. When the blind carpenter takes a bow in the studio, Barker thoughtfully informs him, "Bruce, you're getting a standing ovation" from the audience. It's the coup de grace for a graceless act.