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Dream on the Taking of Pablum 1-2-3 — Parts I & II

Brian Benben's Martin Tupper returns for a fifth season of "Dream On," kicking off with a two-parter by Stephen Engel that edges into silliness. Still, Benben and Wendie Malick as his ex-wife, newly widowed Judith Stone, ably continue their insightful characterizations. Series may be wearing thin, but it's still one of the best comedies on TV.

With:
Cast: Brian Benben, Chris Demetral, Denny Dillon, Wendie Malick, Dorien Wilson, Scott Bakula, Jami Gertz, Paul Dooley, Renee Taylor, Greg Alan-Williams, Zakes Mokae, Taurean Blacque, Ed Marinaro, Mike Warren, Daisy Fuentes, Maury Povitch, Mary Lou Retton, Terry Kiser, Cheech Marin, Mary Major, Joe Spano, Bruce Weitz.

Brian Benben’s Martin Tupper returns for a fifth season of “Dream On,” kicking off with a two-parter by Stephen Engel that edges into silliness. Still, Benben and Wendie Malick as his ex-wife, newly widowed Judith Stone, ably continue their insightful characterizations. Series may be wearing thin, but it’s still one of the best comedies on TV.

Through impossibly pre-arranged circumstances, Judith’s infant and Martin are kidnapped by a pair of would-be screenwriters (Scott Bakula, Jami Gertz), who figure they’ll cash in on their experiences with a screenplay. The kidnappers stash babe Richard and Martin away in a New Jersey warehouse while the worriers back home consider the baby’s fate as well as their own.

Per custom, intercut TV and film clips depicting Martin’s responses to situations hit the target.

The plot’s not the point, it’s the execution. Under Ron Wolotsky’s direction, the two half-hours head into non-door-slamming farce that rings a few bells, but the premise wears out once the kidnappers and their hostages hit Jersey.

To salt the stew, the sitcom brings in cameos like Terry Kiser as a TV producer, Mary Lou Retton as a eulogist at Stone’s memorial service, Cheech Marin as a waiter, and Maury Povich and Daisy Fuentes as TV hosts. Guestints, including actors from “Hill Street Blues,” presumably add luster to the comedy.

Bakula’s OK in the strained comic action; Gertz is an all-out clown in a wild role. But the humor turns too often to juve. Program looks as smart as usual, Benben and Malick are ideally cast, and all tech credits are just fine.

Dream on the Taking of Pablum 1-2-3 -- Parts I & II

(Weds. (22, 29), 10-10: 30 p.m., HBO)

Production: Filmed in L.A. by St. Clare Entertainment and MTE. Exec producers, John Landis, Leslie Belzberg, Robert K. Weiss; co-exec producers, Stephen Engel, Ron Wolotzky; supervising producers, Bill Sanders, Don Woodard, Tom Maxwell; producer, Robb Idels; co-producer, Victor Levin; director, Wolotzky; writer, Engel; creators, Marta Kauffman, David Crane.

Crew: Camera, Richard Walden; editor, Nancy Morrison; sound, Marc A. Gilmartin; theme, Michael Skloff.

Cast: Cast: Brian Benben, Chris Demetral, Denny Dillon, Wendie Malick, Dorien Wilson, Scott Bakula, Jami Gertz, Paul Dooley, Renee Taylor, Greg Alan-Williams, Zakes Mokae, Taurean Blacque, Ed Marinaro, Mike Warren, Daisy Fuentes, Maury Povitch, Mary Lou Retton, Terry Kiser, Cheech Marin, Mary Major, Joe Spano, Bruce Weitz.

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