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Becoming Dick

It's more important to be nice than to be rich and famous. That's the moral of this telepic fable, not from the Family Channel, but from E! Entertainment Television, home of the best dish in Hollywood. Of course, where would E! be without intransigent stars and wayward celebs? This made-for gives an ever-so-slight nod to satire, but is so tame it'll make even the most angelic viewers crave a taste of the irreverent "Talk Soup." Maybe that's the plan: Bore the viewers to the point where they appreciate what E! has been doling out all along.

With:
Richard Breggs - Harland Williams Edward - Robert Wagner Maggie - Elizabeth Berkley

It’s more important to be nice than to be rich and famous. That’s the moral of this telepic fable, not from the Family Channel, but from E! Entertainment Television, home of the best dish in Hollywood. Of course, where would E! be without intransigent stars and wayward celebs? This made-for gives an ever-so-slight nod to satire, but is so tame it’ll make even the most angelic viewers crave a taste of the irreverent “Talk Soup.” Maybe that’s the plan: Bore the viewers to the point where they appreciate what E! has been doling out all along.

Harland Williams plays super-nice-guy Richard Breggs, a New York actor who drives a cab so he can buy his great girlfriend Maggie (Elizabeth Berkley) a set of window shades for their tiny apartment. But Richard’s buddy Nick (director Bob Saget) tells him the niceness is the source of Richard’s career problems, that to get ahead, you’ve got to be a “dick.”

Soon after deciding to try being mean, Richard wakes up with amnesia to discover the year is 2004 and he’s the star of a hugely successful TV show – called “Dick.” He’s living in a mansion in Hollywood and has a butler named Edward (Robert Wagner). He’s also, Edward happily informs him, known for being a horrible human being.

The use of the many-faceted word “dick” – short for Richard, slang for both jerk and for male genitalia – is as naughty and as clever as this telepic gets, which isn’t saying much. Most of Rick Gitelson’s poorly designed teleplay involves Richard trying to seek forgiveness from Maggie; he doesn’t remember anything he did wrong, but he’s very very sorry. We see almost none of Dick’s evil ways, and what we hear about it is purely generic. E! should know better than to stick us with this preachy tale; I’d rather watch Dick than Richard any day.

The only thing worth watching here is the performance of Wagner as the butler. There’s nothing original about it, and Sir John Gielgud did it even better in “Arthur,” but it’s a fun role, and Wagner provides some spot-on timing and just the right note of put-upon nonchalance.

Cameos from Ed Asner, Michael Moriarty and Connie Stevens deliver some needed relief from the vapid niceness that Williams insistently projects. And the fact that a comedy needs comic relief says it all about this witless telepic.

Tech credits are fine.

Becoming Dick

Telefilm; E! Entertainment Television, Thurs. Aug. 31, 9 P.M.

Production: Filmed in Vancouver by Exclamation Prods. Executive producers, Lynn Deegan, James Shavick; producer, Shawn Williamson.

Crew: Directed by Bob Saget; writer, Rick Gitel-son; cinematography, Ron Orieux; production design, Michael Memirsky; editor, Ron Yoshida; costumes, Cynthia Summers; music Peter Rodgers Melnick; casting, Katy Wallin-Sandalis, Maureen Webb. 120 MIN.

Cast: Richard Breggs - Harland Williams Edward - Robert Wagner Maggie - Elizabeth BerkleyWith: Bob Saget, William B. Davis, Michael Moriarty, Connie Stevens, Ed Asner.

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