Why can't American TV produce quality drama like British TV? This tiresome question is often asked, but the Maryland Center for Public Broadcasting actually went looking for an answer. Last June, three pros from the BBC held a six-day workshop on production techniques at the center. The first major result of this cram course, "McAllister's Dream," airs tonight at 10:30 on Channel 22.

The techniques had to do with cost-cutting, detailed planning, and script development. Unfortunately, the script, by Sharon Elizabeth Doyle, stubbornly resisted development. It's the wan tale of Fred McAllister, a 43-year-old actor given the chance to escape soap commercials for a part in a big-budget movie opposite, ugh, Alan Alda (I'd stick with the soap, Fred).

A man's got to know his limitations, as Clint Eastwood taught us, but Fred is afraid of finding out what his are, like Noel Airman in "Marjorie Morningstar." His "dream" is every actor's recurring nightmare: He's on stage in a play, but he doesn't know the part. Yet he finesses his own deft rescue.

Robert Bornarth is an appealing milquetoast as Fred; he has the friendly, folksy face of a kiddie-show host. But other actors--Greta Lambert as his girlfriend Betty and Ralph Piersanti as his agent Marty--overdo furiously, projecting as if in a huge theater and not a tiny TV set. Director John Alan Spoler fails to punch things up, and while the Marylanders may have learned