'Maggie': gags are not enough
New York — Erma Bombeck is the American housewife's Dorothy Parker. In her syndicated newspaper columns and books and on ''Good Morning, America'' on TV she seems to have located the nonfeminist housewife's funnybone and tickled it unmercifully. The result has been lots of laughs - for housewives and for sexist-leaning men. For Erma Bombeck, a house is not so much a home as a running gag - about, say, such things as the woman whose cooking is so bad that she sends her misbehaving child to bed with dinner.
Now she has plunged, armed with her chicken-feather duster, into another form - the TV sitcom. ''Maggie'' (ABC, Saturday, 8-8:30 p.m., check local listings) was created by Erma Bombeck and written by Erma Bombeck; she is also the executive producer. That's a lot of Erma Bombeck.
But one of the main troubles with the premiere is that there's not enough of Erma Bombeck. As portrayed by Miriam Flynn, Maggie is not quite perceptive enough, not quite self-critical enough, not quite funny enough. In short, Maggie needs Erma in the lead.
The initial episode is just a series of funny gags strung together with only the tiny semblance of a plot and lots of laugh-machine guffaws. In Erma's world someone is accused of needlepointing a piano, car keys are ''the devil's castanets,'' phone messages are left in the bacon grease in the frying pan, mother casually removes a dead frog from her son's pocket before washing his clothes.
''Maggie'' is a walking, talking portfolio of Erma Bombeck gags - without the real funny lady. It is like reading an animated Erma Bombeck newspaper column. But there's only one Erma Bombeck - and she should come out from behind that highfalutin' executive producer title and start slinging those funny lines on camera herself.