The third of January seems a trifle early to start setting low-water marks for the year, but Suzanne Somers, that inexcusable excuse for a sex symbol, makes a flying leap at this dubious achievement with "Suzanne Somers . . . and 10,000 G.I.s!," an act of cruel and unusual punishment perpetrated by CBS at 10 tonight on Channel 9.
Somers taped this special, a follow-up to a previous saggy outing aboard an aircraft carrier, last October in an airplane hangar near Kaiserslautern, West Germany. Of course, a better title would have been "Have Peroxide, Will Travel," but that would fail to exploit the presence of American military personnel, used as props and applauding mannequins designed to disguise the aching talentlessness of the star.
The alleged blond bombshell is dropped onto Germany with a thud. Out she slinks in satin lingerie to purr Irving Berlin's "Oh, How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning" to a barrack full of servicemen, and moments later she is floundering across a stage on which "Suzanne" has been stenciled at Ramstein Air Force Base.
One can almost imagine the military personnel thinking to themselves, "If only there were a war on, they'd send over some actual entertainers."
The program is staged as a giant tease, with Somers slinking and vamping and wiggling in front of presumably gal-hungry guys stationed on cushy duty in Europe. "Ooh, I can't believe it," Somers gushes. "Here I am in Germany with 50,000 young, handsome soldiers all to myself! And the nuns said I'd never get to heaven." Unfortunately, as camera pans of the crowd remind us, our fighting men have been supplemented with a substantial number of fighting women. Somers is introduced with a "Ladies-and-gentlemen . . ." Thus her little revue is not only an imbecilic embarrassment, but an idiotic anachronism as well.
Jonathan Winters makes criminally brief appearances on the program, as do the still-sparkly Pointer Sisters, and the triumphantly statuesque Susan Anton, a genuine knockout--at least as compared to the star--who tries to lead the throng out of darkness. But Somers is deflatingly everywhere, failing to sing, failing to dance, and never once appearing to belong on a stage--be it in an airplane hangar, a Midas Muffler shop, the Parsippany Dinner Theater, or anywhere else.
Of course it is wrong to refer to women as animals--pig, dog, perhaps even chickadee. And women should be judged on more than their looks (we haven't been watching Phil Donahue all these years for nothing). But when a woman like Somers attempts to monopolize a spotlight purely on the basis of her appearance and a shallow simulation of pulchritude, it's perfectly just to judge her by the standards she has chosen for herself. According to even these standards, and leaving all considerations of talent and intelligence aside, that Suzanne Somers is one great dumb ox.
Tonight's flamboyant vanity production was executive-produced by Somers' husband, Alan Hamel, a spokesman for a supermarket chain. Somers loyally interjects the phrase "tell a friend" during the program; it's the supermarket chain's slogan.
In a nightclub, Somers leads a chorus of "We'll Meet Again"--an unveiled threat in this context--and closes the program with a sex-kittenish "America the Beautiful." In a way, the special is refreshing; it reminds you that it's still possible to be totally appalled, that years of insulting television haven't completely dulled one's capacity for outrage, or slackened the cringe muscles beyond use. But when, week upon week, American children see vapid ciphers like Somers hailed and applauded as if they were Nobel laureates or gifted artistes, what does this do to values, to American popular culture, to the common good of all humanity? Is it too early in the year to just give up???
Wait a minute--here is a message from Europe. Europe says, "All right, all right, we'll take the mid-range strategic missiles. You can put them right in the middle of everybody's back yard. Just please, for God's sake, keep Suzanne Somers at home."