We gave it a C-
HBO aired an Encyclopedia Brown adventure last year, and the response was positive enough to lead to six new investigations by the boy detective, created by writer Donald J. Sobol for the young-adult set.
Sobol’s creation is a smart kid who updates Sherlock Holmes’ powers of deduction to solve mysteries. HBO’s interpretation of the character, however, transforms E.B. into a little wiseguy grappling with UFOs, ghosts, and loony inventors.
This debut episode is typical: While on a camping trip, Encyclopedia encounters an eccentric toy-maker who lives in the woods, as well as a flying saucer piloted by a green alien in a cowboy outfit.
The episode was directed by ”Savage” Steve Holland, who wore out his television welcome with The New Adventures of Beans Baxter, an early series on the Fox network that strained for wacky hipness and failed miserably. Holland has directed Encyclopedia Brown the same way, filling the half-hour with corny sight gags and obtrusive references to David Letterman and Pee-wee’s Playhouse.
It’s too hokey for its intended audience. There’s nothing classic about Sobol’s books, but HBO would do better to restore some of the more cerebral spirit of the stories to its adaptations. C-