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Half a Dozen Babies

So many toddlers, so little plot. That's what ABC offers up in "Half a Dozen Babies," a simpleminded story that showcases the smiles associated with having six children but none of the hardships.

So many toddlers, so little plot. That’s what ABC offers up in “Half a Dozen Babies,” a simpleminded story that showcases the smiles associated with having six children but none of the hardships. It was just a matter of time before the telepic world pounced upon America’s fascination with multiple births, but here it’s treated as lighthearted fluff. Sweeps viewers who aren’t turned off by its excessive cutesiness — even the opening credits are in pink — are in for a shallow take on big-time family togetherness.

Based on the life of the Dilley family from Bloomington, Ind., “Babies” uses the country’s first surviving sextuplets (they’re now 5 years old) as nothing more than a structural hook. And even though husband and wife (and sudser vets) Melissa and Scott Reeves display a terrific chemistry as the lovey-dovey couple, not even genuine sparks can rise above the gimmicky material.

Becki and Keith Dilley maintain a solid marriage, and they both want Becki to get pregnant. But after struggling almost five years with hospital visits and fertility medicine, Keith decides that the attempts aren’t worth the rejection and emotional pain.

Not as convinced, Becki pursues a last chance, and her specialist gives her hope: She pawns her wedding ring for one month’s supply of a new drug and — boom! — five children are on the way.

Narrative then focuses on preparations and concerns: Keith’s dying mother, Lee (Teri Garr), and Becki’s mom, Doris (Judith Ivey), prep for grandmotherdom; the happy twosome ponder their crowded future; and everyone worries about proper care.

The big day comes, and the doctors, right after completing a successful delivery, discover another baby tucked away. Instant celebrities, the Dilleys must deal with prodding journalists, an interested public and an overnight lifestyle adjustment.

Newsmags and consumer publications continue to cover the medical and social issues surrounding this recent trend, but director Douglass Barr and writer Joe Wiesenfeld decided to center only on the wide-eyed surprise factor. While it’s wonderful to spotlight a healthy six-pack, it’s also a terrifying change and a financial hardship, and these aspects are inappropriately blanketed with constant cheer and the power of positive thinking.

The biggest problem doesn’t stem from its execution or the performances — there’s just something terribly dull about the people portrayed in “Babies.” Mr. and Mrs. Dilley probably have some very fascinating qualities, but the Reeves play them as if they’ve popped out of a greeting card; they even fawn over Christmas ornaments. And while Ivey and Garr do their best to add excitement to the goings-on — their hatred for each other gets juicy — pouty mothers-in-law just aren’t that engaging.

Tech credits are all ordinary.

Half a Dozen Babies

ABC; Mon. May 17, 8 p.m.

  • Production: Filmed in Toronto by WildRice Prods. Executive producer, Joel S. Rice; director, Douglass Barr; writer, Joe Wiesenfeld; camera, Michael Storey; production designer, James McAteer; editor, Raul Davalos; music, Eric Allaman; casting, Shauna Landsburg, Tina Gerussi. 120 MIN.
  • Crew:
  • Cast: Becki Dilley - Melissa Reeves Keith Dilley - Scott Reeves Doris Stauffer - Judith Ivey Lee Dilley - Teri Garr Lynda Smirz - Kate McNeil Larry Dilley - Bill Macdonald Loren Stauffer - Philip Craig David McLaughlin - Nigel Bennett Nina Angstrom - Ruth Marshall
  • Music By: