Walt Disney Productions tries to squeeze a bit more mileage out of a fairly weather-beaten vehicle with "Herbie, the Love Bug," a CBS limited series premiering at 8 tonight on Channel 9. The program is populated with the usual clammily plastic Disney types--eau de Lysol being vaguely apparent in the air--but that turns out to be not so bad. It's actually a pleasant change from the randy rubes and smart-mouth tots that inhabit most TV comedy shows.
Herbie is, of course, a gifted Volkswagen Beetle with a will and a way of its (his?) own, a car who has starred in various movies, the end of the road probably having been reached when Herbie, somewhat too presumptuously, went to Monte Carlo. Now he has become the property of a driving school owner (the tolerably spotless Dean Jones, who appeared in the films), and, in this introductory episode, the fellow takes a shining to a pretty divorce' (Patricia Harty, who has more character than most Disney perkettes) and woos her with Herbie's help.
There may not be enough stunts, chases and gags in the show to keep children hooked for an entire hour, but it is hardly without appeal. Herbie does keep busy; he foils a bank robbery, plays "Happy Birthday" on his horn to a little old lady, spits oil at bad guys, and even gives the raspberry with his widdo hoodums. In the last scene, he helps keep the divorce' from marrying a rich jerk by driving right into the church during the wedding and spitting up more oil. This may give some viewers pause, but it's the only thing in the show that's offensive for any other reason than simple-mindedness.
A wounded Detroit will not be too happy with the program, however. Herbie is of course a foreigner, another character owns a German-made Mercedes, and the divorce''s three kids dream of driving British TR-7s or Japanese 280-Zs. One of the few American cars on the premises, a Chevrolet, won't start--and, in an early scene, is repossessed. A Cadillac convertible shows up, but it's used as a symbol of wretched excess. Is Herbie trying to tell us something?