Since innumerable titles were tried out on ABC's new Madeline Kahn sitcom while it was in production, "I Love Madeline" must have come up as a possibility somewhere along the line. The program is a throwback to the burnt roast sitcoms of the '50s, except that then there was no talk of "alabaster breasts" and "deflowering" in the scripts.
Nor did Ricky ever say to Lucy (or Ralph to Alice, or Ozzie to Harriet), "You didn't mind me losing my self-control last night," with the wacky spouse replying, "That's true. We were never better." Such is the stuff of "Oh Madeline," which premieres at 9:30 tonight on Channel 7, and which essentially squanders Kahn's singular broad-comic gifts on frazzled and tattered material.
The writer of the premiere, Irma Kalish, and the producers haven't come up with enough funny circumstances in which Kahn can romp. When she opens the show with her burlesque of the already funny chair-pounding scene from "Flashdance," one's hopes are raised high. The woman is funny. But no intriguing context is ever developed. It's just Madeline thrown out into a sitcom like a child dropped in a sandbox and told to play.
Actually, the network publicity department's plot synopsis says about all that needs to be said on the subject of the show and the depth of its ingenuity: "Madeline bets her husband Charlie that he can't stick to his new health and exercise regimen. Charlie quickly falls prey to his food cravings, and sneaks off to a local restaurant. When Madeline shows up, Charlie scrambles to leave undetected, and crashes into a waiter who dumps chocolate sauce all over him . . ."
The waiter, incidentally, never misses an opportunity to complain about the inadequacies of his sex life to perfect strangers. And the plot continues by dragging Madeline into the shower with her clothes on (oh, my goodness!) and then sending her through the neighborhood in a towel. It's a wonder she doesn't bump into "Meet Millie," "My Little Margie" and "I Married Joan" along the way. Half an hour of this derivative primitive and one is inclined to offer yet another alternate title for the program: "Oh Madeline, Shut Up."