A television critic known for his near-saintly patience and willingness to sit long hours in a single chair recently returned from Los Angeles and his annual immersion in pilot episodes of the new fall television shows. And having seen about 95 percent of what the networks are offering, he found only one show, just one, that was petrifyingly stupid beyond even the lowliest expectations.
It's the show that is the first new program of the season to make its premiere: "We Got It Made," a perfectly pitiful NBC sitcom at 9 tonight on Channel 4. The program is a cross between "Three's Company" and "Three's Company." To call it a witless "Three's Company" would seem recklessly redundant--what could have less wit than "Three's Company"?--but suddenly the adventures of John Ritter and his nubile roomies begin to appear almost Shavian in their subtlety and erudition.
In "We Got It Made," two wimpish simpletons played by Tom Villard and Matt McCoy (erroneously referred to as "two cute guys" in NBC promos) decide to clean up their act, or at least their apartment, by hiring a maid, and who turns up to apply for the job but a twinkly curvaceous blond played by the ultra-twinkly and eminently curvaceous Teri Copley. The actress is required not only to speak in panted little whispers like Jayne Mansfield but also to put her hands behind her back so as to make her chest stick out.
Bawdy comedy is one thing--Benny Hill's unquenchable lecherousness (seen here nightly at 11 on Channel 20) can be uproariously funny--but "We Got It Made" is just childishly inane, and it's retro-inanity at that, with gags that seem to come either from a TV sitcom of five years ago or from an "SCTV" parody of that sitcom from four years ago.
In the premiere, the appointed cutie arrives at the apartment, the boys' girlfriends get snitty about it (it "makes me puke," says Claudia, played by Stepfanie Kramer), the cutie and the two boys get locked in the bathroom, the cutie ends up on the window ledge in the nude, a musical toilet seat plays "Here Comes the Bride," and so on. According to Brandon Tartikoff, president of NBC Entertainment, the IQ of the cutie will be raised "a few points" in future episodes; that could bring it up as high as 25 or 30. Surely little can be done at this point to raise the IQs of the writers and producers. Maybe something can be done to raise the IQ of Brandon Tartikoff.
Feminists will find the portrayal of the young woman demeaning, but smug tripe like this really demeans everyone, including the network that shows it. Since the program comes from a company run by former NBC president Fred Silverman, one might suspect some sort of contractual obligation that forced NBC to buy a Silverman show. But an NBC spokesman said from New York earlier this week that was not the case. He also denied that NBC is premiering the show early in order to "burn off" the episodes contracted for, so that a new show, a real show, can be brought in.
NBC Chairman Grant Tinker likes to play Mr. Magoo with shows like this. He pretends he can't quite see them. Tinker not only flies over the audience, he flies over his own network's shows. The feeling at NBC, a spokesman says, is that "We Got It Made," though an embarrassing piece of trash, could be highly commercial and thus provide a lead-in to the exemplary, thoughtful, clever but low-rated "Cheers." If so--if an audience is drawn to "Made" and sticks around for "Cheers"--that audience defies analysis. But then if this show can make "Cheers" a hit, poor little Teri Copley will not have breathed, deeply, in vain.