'The Duck Factory' is sinking - but Alan Burns might be able to save it

''Dippy Duck'' needs help. He's the star of a cartoon that is the major product of a struggling Hollywood animation company. Dippy is on the verge of being canceled by a television network. Enter a young cartoonist, fresh from the Midwest, called upon to save Dippy from disaster.

OK, you've got the premise of The Duck Factory (NBC, Thursdays, 9:30-10 p.m., premiering April 12). Now, what?

I have viewed the premiere and I find the best things about it are the premise, the title - and the titles. The show itself is slightly distasteful, vaguely charming, frighteningly slight, and sadly unfunny. The animation bits are delightful but there are not enough of them. The show must get better.

So why am I bothering to review it? How long can it last in the electronic jungle that is series television? What does it have going for it?

Alan Burns, that's what it has going for it. Alan Burns is the executive producer. He is one of the men most responsible for the success of the ''Mary Tyler Moore Show'' at MTM Enterprises, which is also producing this show. Alan Burns has enough creative talent to find the right writers to rewrite, to redirect, to reconceive, to pull this thing together, to pull it out of the fire.

Donald Duck had Walt Disney to help him make it. Dippy Duck has Alan Burns. As they say in cartoons: ''Help!!!''

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