A flagon of ale and two free Prince albums to anyone who can work up a modicum of enthusiasm for "Charles in Charge" and "Dreams" the two new CBS sitcoms premiering at 8 and 8:30 tonight on Channel 9.
Both programs are nice enough as far as they go, but they don't go very far at all. "Charles in Charge" stars Scott Baio as the season's second male "live-in family helper" (Tony Danza, of ABC's "It's Your Move," was the first), a college student who lives with a young married couple and their three children.
Certainly not as muddily puddin' headed as "Happy Days" and "Joanie Loves Chachi," the two shows in which Baio previously appeared, "Charles" can manage nothing more compelling than mild amusement. The premiere gives most of the laugh lines to the three predictably smart-alecky and hip kiddies on the premises. Baio runs about looking harried and flustered. And a mite too old for this sort of thing, as who isn't?
"Dreams" is more distinguishably mediocre, a strained charade about five Philadelphia youths who seek escape from the world of welding via rock music stardom. Seeking escape from anything -- Devil's Island or Hell's Kitchen -- via rock music stardom is something that should certainly not be encouraged. One "Fame" is plenty of that. So the whole premise of the show is rather stale and suspect.
And the premiere borrows a plot from, of all things, an old "Eight Is Enough." A rich young lady agrees to help the band out but with the stipulation that she be given center spotlight as the lead singer. And this after having their amps stolen, yet! It's all resolved with lead feet and, as directed by Bill Bixby, little sense of youthful energy.
Musical numbers are interpolated into the proceedings, but these tend to harmonize with the rest of the show only in terms of their listlessness. As the star performer, former soap opera actor John Stamos may appeal to teen-age girls, but not to those in full possession of their faculties, and Louise Franconi and Ron Karabatsos are embarrassing as the aunt and uncle who try to update old lines from "The Honeymooners." Little if anything about "Dreams" is sufficiently dreamy.