ABC goes from Super Bowl to Super Bore Sunday night with the "special premiere" of yet another indistinguishable crime show, "MacGruder & Loud," at 10 (or later if the game runs unexpectedly long) on Channel 7. Network publicity quotes ABC Entertainment president Lewis H. Erlicht, surely one of our nation's cultural elite, as having said, "We are thrilled as well as fortunate to be able to launch this important new series with the unparalleled promotional base and lead-in the Super Bowl affords."
Oh yes, this is a terribly important show -- another expectoration from Old Man Drivel himself, producer Aaron Spelling. MacGruder and Loud are a man-and-woman cop team who are Secretly Married, and nobody knows it, and they get into such scrapes.
That's the peg, the husband-and-wife cops. If you buy the peg, you buy the show. If you buy the show, I have a set of personal checks signed by Howard Hughes I would love to unload on you.
Spelling really is an American original. He has made a career of producing programs whose ambition is only to be not so shriekingly terrible that people leap from their chairs and turn them off. And he is losing his touch at even that lowly goal. "MacGruder & Loud" isn't happy junk, it's enervated junk, trancily performed by the perennially underqualified, and unappealing, John Getz as MacGruder, and the overqualified, and here made unappealing (by the cop garb and the cop gab), Kathryn Harrold.
Even critics' hearts can bleed, and this old critic's heart hemorrhages for Harrold, forced by the fickle fist of fate into a project that requires no measurable talents of any kind, except perhaps the ability to reel off cutesmut dialogue without choking. "Silicon Valley, Silicone Breasts," MacGruder says. "Sounds like a mini-series," she responds. "I'd watch it," he says. "I'll bet," I says.
You do start talking back to the screen on a show like this. It's either that, or eat candies, or go completely and irretrievably batty.
The plot. Oh yes, there is a plot. Plot 4622AA from the Aaron Spelling pit of Plots That Are the Pits. It seems MacGruder is being Stalked By A Killer! But then maybe that's what ought to happen to a man who Sneers When He Kisses! Mistaking the fellow for MacGruder, the sniper Kills His Best Friend! And that makes him Mad! What does a writer like Lane Slate say to himself when he finishes a script Like This? How about, "Well, it's crap, but it's Good Enough for Spelling!!!"?
Our copteam finds a hanged man in a bathroom. One of them says, "He didn't hang himself. It was a 187." Pause. The other murmurs, "Murder." Most of the time, though, they talk about sex in kitty-cat TV terms. They are repeatedly discovered in bed, and the man brags about his "technique." Another joke involves the word "penetrate." When he walks in the door saying "I have two things for you," she says, "Don't be vulgar."
There is an actress who contributes, or rather commits, a performance here, the indubitably redoubtable Susan Tyrell, wallowing through another parodically slatternly turn as the sniper's moll. "You're filthy through and through," she tells him. "Kiss kiss." How did this little burst of life, insane though it may be, get into anything as dolorous and drab as "MacGruder & Loud"? It's a high-trite moment in yet another low-trite show. You cross your fingers and hope that if Spelling cranks out just one more of these things, the assembly line will break down for good, either from exhaustion, or from guilt.