Years ago, the Old Endicott Building was torn down and the New Endicott Building erected in its place. "Sure looks old," says Maynard G. Krebs when he sees it.
Maynard looks a tad old, too, but then this is two decades later, and the occasion is another of those feature-length reunions of a vintage series: "Bring Me the Head of Dobie Gillis," the CBS Sunday night movie at 9 on Channel 9.
However much one loved the original and whimsical "Many Loves of Dobie Gillis," which aired on CBS from 1959 to 1963, it may not be enough to see one through this depressingly silly and cheaply made update.
The film turned out so badly that slotting it opposite big-ticket items like the Winter Olympics on ABC and the premiere of NBC's sumptuous "Noble House" is probably the programming equivalent of a sacrifice bunt.
Dwayne Hickman, who's been a network executive all these years, and looks it (when not reminding you of Robert Cummings, and who wants to be reminded?), returns as Dobie, the perplexed waif created by Max Shulman. Bob Denver, who had the notorious hit series "Gilligan's Island" in the interim, reclaims the role of beatnik Krebs, though he plays it more like Gilligan.
You keep waiting for the skipper to appear and bop him on the beezer.
Among those conspicuously absent is Tuesday Weld, who originally played snobby bombshell Thalia Menninger, always beyond Dobie's reach and grasp. The part has been assumed by Connie Stevens, who's contagiously perky but can't begin to approach Weld's perversely petulant poutiness.
Two of the funniest characters from the series, Dobie's parents, are also missing. They were played by the alliteratively named Frank Faylen and Florida Friebus. Faylen has died and Friebus was, apparently, unavailable. Alumni like Warren Beatty (once Milton Armitage) are absent for obvious reasons.
After all, Warren had "Ishtar" to make.
What's happened to Dobie and his friends after all these years? Dobie married the doting Zelda Gilroy (Sheila James, who appears to have CinemaScoped, or maybe VistaVisioned) and inherited his father's grocery store. He now has a teen-age son who, as Dobie once did, lusts after the class cupcake while spurning the gentlewoman and scholar who really loves him.
This is harmless enough, but it's icked up with songs and scenes from a student musical based on "Romeo and Juliet," with William Schallert returning as a teacher -- and Fred C. Dobbs (Bogie's character in "Treasure of the Sierra Madre") returning as the amusingly quixotic name of the high school.
The central plot, meanwhile, is the meanwhiliest central plot ever, groaning dross about Thalia returning to the town a rich widow determined to take Dobie away from Zelda and placing a bounty on his head -- hence title -- when she fails.
Stanley Z. Cherry, who produced, directed and cowrote, simulates some of the crispy rhythms of the old show, but the script is so dreadful as to be insurmountable. Spielberg couldn't have saved it. One especially painful scene has Zelda telling Thalia about Dobie's performance in bed.
"He's awful," Zelda says. "He's dull and boring."
Zelda, at least, is as wise as ever.