It took five executive producers, two co-producers, two developers, two creators, an associate producer, two executive script consultants, two story editors and a "program consultant" to come up with "Joanie Loves Chachi," a flatulent imbecility--and the latest "Happy Days" spinoff--for ABC, the network with incurable acne. All those people to deliberate over the content of something designed to lack all semblance of content! Even hapless nincompoops should have better ways to waste their time.
"Joanie Loves Chachi" is not a horse designed by a committee. It is a gnat designed by a committee. The further adventures of Joanie Cunningham (Erin Moran) and Chachi Arcola (Scott Baio), premiering tonight at 8:30 on Channel 7, represent a new low in desperation cloning. As one watches it sputter and stumble from one mechanical cliche' to another, you can't help wishing you'd been at some of the sessions where those executive script consultants and story editors thrashed this out. Not since the last meeting of Reagan's economic advisers has so shallow a think tank been convened.
Situation comedies produced--pardon, "executive" produced--by Garry Marshall are really subtractive entities. The process must amount to peeling away all vestiges of human feeling and traces of unpredictability until you arrive at the quintessential absence. In the premiere, Joanie and Chachi, who are in love, move to Chicago to begin singing at a club. Pudgy, porky Joanie gets jealous when skinny, wimpy Chachi fraternizes with his adoring (and very undiscriminating) female fans, and so she starts flirting with the men in the audience, and doesn't that make Chachi's dander rise!
Ah yes, Chachi learns a little lesson about life--the same little lesson learned by countless other sitcom shmoes before him. How can even the smallest teen-age mind in the world be diverted by this kind of negative energy? If only the control of television could be wrested away from the Marshalls and the adolescents of the world, there might be hope.
Marshall gives candy bars away to studio audiences at Paramount, where his comedies are filmed, to keep the folks peppy, but the studio audience for "Smarmy Loves Sleazy" (a better title) must have been supplied something stronger than Milky Ways. They scream, they shriek, they cheer, they all but hurl themselves onto the stage. When Al Molinaro as Al Delvecchio gives nasty Uncle Rico (Art Metrano) the meekest kind of comeuppance, the crowd roars as if Rocky Balboa had just k.o.'d Qaddafi and Khomeini with a single punch. Perhaps the audience is trying for an Emmy--best performance by a pack of yapping idiots in a supporting role.