Erma Bombeck's seemingly endless discursions about the mini-agonies and petty ecstasies of middle-class suburban life make an awkward jump to the television screen tonight with the premiere of ABC's "Maggie," a dithery and curiously anachronistic sitcom, at 8 on Channel 7.
Miriam Flynn, a very appealingly tart comic actress, is up to her apron strings in trifling contrivances as Maggie Weston, essentially the character Bombeck plays herself in her columns and on her "Good Morning, America" appearances. She created the series and wrote the premiere, but hasn't found a way to breathe life or dimension into the low-level hijinks.
Director John Tracy gets the most out of some mildly funny physical comedy as the Westons try to squeeze out of the cars in their just-barely two-car garage, but the central premise of the premiere -- that a son in the third grade innocently devised a science exhibit which the teacher ruled a "borderline obscenity" (it is never shown to the home audience) -- is distasteful and forced. So is a running gag about a teen-age son named L.J. who is not seen on camera because he is always in the bathroom.
Whatever other potential there was for funzapoppin' is effectively defeated by the casting of simperingly insipid James Hampton as the man of the house, to stretch a term; Hampton, who should be dispatched back to the fast-food commercials whence he came, is playing essentially the same idiot daddy who fumbled and bumbled his way through sitcoms of the '50s. Indeed, all the characters, except the kids, seem so hapless and ditzy, and the comic tone so illusory and uncertain, that the program becomes almost monumental in its negligibility.