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TV Reviews : ‘Boy Detective’: A Case of a Missing Story

The popular children’s book series by Donald J. Sobol, “Encyclopedia Brown: Boy Detective,” makes it to the small screen in “The Case of the Missing Time Capsule,” a one-hour special airing on HBO at 8 tonight.

It starts out with a few unexpected chuckles--a sort of kids’ version of the slapstick satire “Police Squad”; unfortunately, its obnoxiousness and dumbness increase in direct ratio to the time it’s on the screen.

The limited acting expertise of some of the cast becomes more obvious as well.

Encyclopedia Brown (Scott Bremner) is a small 10-year-old genius with his own detective agency (“No Case Too Small; $1 a Day, Plus Expenses”) who habitually solves mysteries that his helpless, vacuous elders cannot.

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When someone steals a buried time capsule that was due to be opened at the Idaville centennial celebration, Brown has several suspects, including a rock guitarist, a bad kid named Bugs Meany and the local auto mechanic, Buddy (Rick Overton).

With vast superiority--much easier to take in Sobol’s books than in D.J. McHale’s uneven teleplay--Brown saves the day.

Questions: Why have Brown’s mom look into the camera and utter a rude street expression? Why have the rock star make a reference to certain tests at a health clinic? And do we really need to see all the threatening gun play?

Sobol’s books are for kids, but McHale and director “Savage” Steve Holland seem to be confused about their target audience.

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