A prison seems an unlikely setting for comedy, and sure enough Stir Crazy (ABC Sunday at 9 p.m.) doesn't do justice to Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor, who through a confusion of identities wind up doing 125 years each for bank robbery in the Arizona State Penitentiary. Amid the broad joking there's an attempt to point up the absurd evils of our prison system, but it's all very thin. Preceding Stir Crazy on ABC at 7 p.m. is The White Lions, a children's picture about a family living in an African wildlife preserve. Michael York stars.
Airing opposite each other at 9 p.m. Sunday is the CBS conclusion of Chiefs, the miniseries about a mass murderer, and a repeat of the two-hour NBC pilot for Miami Vice, which piles up the corpses just as surely as it did the ratings.
Earlier on Sunday there are some better bets: the pleasant youth pic Corvette Summer (6 p.m. on Channel 5) and the fine 1940 film of Thornton Wilder's Our Town (7 p.m. on Channel 11), which will be followed at 9 p.m. with "Our Town Revisited," a study of a New England community today.
Lone Wolf McQuade (Channel 13 Monday at 8 p.m.) is a numbingly violent and empty 1983 Chuck Norris flick that casts him as a dinosaur of a Texas Ranger who does things his way (natch).
Sessions, a routine 1983 TV movie starring Veronica Hamel as a prostitute who starts questioning her way of life, repeats Monday at 9 p.m. on NBC. At the same hour Channel 7 offers Stanley Kramer's exceedingly broad Oklahoma Crude, which is enlivened by George C. Scott's oil field roughneck who's recruited by John Mills to guard man-hating daughter Faye Dunaway's oil rig from a ruthless petroleum giant, represented by a heavily villainous Jack Palance.
The Idolmaker (CBS Tuesday at 8:30 p.m.), inspired by the life of Bob Marcucci, discoverer and promoter of Fabian and others, has some gritty, satirical commentary on the pop music scene of decades past but is hampered by an ending that seems self-dramatizing fantasy made real. Although this 1980 film marked an impressive feature debut for director Taylor Hackford, he would seem to have been constrained by Marcucci, who is well-played by Ray Sharkey, serving as technical adviser.
Made in 1983, Two Kinds of Love (CBS Wednesday at 9 p.m.) is a typical TV movie about a boy (Ricky Schroder) who's on the brink of adolescence when a tragedy involving his doting mother (Lindsay Wagner) strikes, leaving him to deal with his workaholic father (Peter Weller).
In John Milius' highly personal Big Wednesday (ABC Thursday at 8 p.m.) he allows his promising premise--the coming of age of three surfing buddies (Jan-Michael Vincent, William Katt and Gary Busey) in the '60s--to dissipate into silliness and finally an embarrassing sentimentality. You're better off with Sam Peckinpah's celebrated 1962 Western Ride the High Country (Channel 5 Thursday at 8 p.m.), which marked Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea's farewell to films--and introduced Mariette Hartley.
As bad as Big Wednesday may be, it's a masterpiece alongside the apparently unintentionally campy Tarzan, the Ape Man (CBS Friday at 9 p.m.), in which Miles O'Keeffe and Bo Derek vie for best chest honors amid hilarious dialogue and predicaments--and a gloriously hammy turn by Richard Harris as Bo's father.
"Overblown and operatic" describes Franco Zeffirelli's 1979 remake of The Champ (CBS Saturday at 9 p.m.). As an adoring but clear-eyed little boy and his broken-down fighter father, Ricky Schroder and Jon Voight do their best in the roles created unforgettably by Jackie Cooper and Wallace Beery in King Vidor's modest, funny and very touching 1931 version, but the film is so opulent and protracted, it self-destructs. Faye Dunaway is Schroder's hifalutin' mother. Also airing Saturday is the fine 1947 British-made film of Dickens' Nicholas Nickleby (Channel 28 at 10 p.m.).
If you have Z Channel, don't miss the five-hour English version of Wolfgang Petersen's superb World War II U-boat epic Das Boot, which begins a series of screenings on Saturday at 9 a.m. It's more grueling at more than twice the length of the theatrical version--but all the richer, too. Other notable pay TV/cable fare includes The Scarlet Empress (Z Monday at 7 p.m.); Blue Water, White Death (WTBS Monday at 10 p.m.); Cavalcade (Z Tuesday at 7 p.m.); Major Dundee (WTBS Tuesday at 7:20 p.m.); Secret Honor (Movie Channel Tuesday at 10 p.m.); The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai (Z Saturday at 9 p.m.).