Superman, the first of the three films that brought back to the screen the Man of Steel in the grand manner, returns Sunday on ABC at 8 p.m. It's not as satisfying a blend of the epic and the affectionate spoof as Superman II, but it's certainly a pleasant enough summer refresher, even if you've seen it before. What makes the film work is not so much the special effects, which are properly spectacular, but Christopher Reeve, who in the title role not only looks the part but is equally effective in Superman's timid Clark Kent guise. Reeve takes the whole enterprise just seriously enough to avoid all-out camp. Equally felicitous is Margot Kidder's Lois Lane, who's ambitious without being brassy, feminine without being only a sex symbol.
While Superman is pursuing arch-villain Gene Hackman, ensconced in the splendor of an abandoned level of the Grand Central, CBS and NBC on Sunday are repeating, respectively, the two-hour pilot for Murder, She Wrote with Angela Lansbury (at 8 p.m.) and All the Pretty Girls Will Die with "Hunter" stars Fred Dryer and Stepfanie Kramer (at 9 p.m.).
With a wild and antic imagination, The In-Laws (CBS Tuesday at 8 p.m.) has Peter Falk sweep Alan Arkin, his son's future father-in-law and a nice, decent, successful Manhattan dentist, into an adventure crazier than Arkin's wildest imaginings. Directed by Arthur Hiller and written by Andrew Bergman, this hilarious 1979 comedy is too constantly, delightfully unpredictable to reveal much more. As the film's linchpin, Falk comes across as a crummy, low-life Pied Piper with a stupefyingly irresistible charm.
Although the plot is not as airtight as it might be, Nicholas Meyer's Time After Time (Channel 13 Wednesday at 8 p.m.) is an endearing, scary fantasy that imagines Malcolm McDowell pursuing, via his time machine, David Warner's Jack the Ripper in present-day San Francisco, where he meets lovely (and endangered) Mary Steenburgen.
Meteor (ABC Thursday at 8 p.m.) may wipe out Manhattan, Hong Kong and all of Switzerland, but it's done in by sheer dullness. Sean Connery and Natalie Wood head a large--and largely wasted--cast.
Airing opposite it Thursday at 8 p.m. on Channel 13 is the entertainingly trashy Jacqueline Susann's Once Is Not Enough, memorable for Brenda Vaccaro's comically aggressive women's magazine editor.
The way King of the Mountain (Channel 4 Saturday at 9 p.m.) tells it, young men still gather on Mulholland Drive to risk their necks racing their souped-up cars, carrying on a lethal ritual that dates back some three decades. Inspired by a 1978 New West magazine article by David Barry, this fine little 1981 film suggests that continual participation in these races represents a refusal to grow up. Directed by Noel Nosseck and written by H.R. Christian, King of the Mountain stars Harry Hamlin, Joseph Bottoms and Richard Cox. Dennis Hopper is a long-ago racer desperate for a comeback; it's as if he's the same kid in "Rebel Without a Cause, surviving those chicken runs in that film only to grow middle-aged without growing up.
Instead of movies, CBS is filling up its weekend movie slots with a rerun of the 1982 miniseries The Blue and the Gray (Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 9 p.m. and next Sunday at 8 p.m.). Based on the works of the late Civil War historian Bruce Catton, it may tilt more toward melodrama than perceptive and compelling storytelling, but it's highly watchable.
Selected evening cable fare: Being There (Movie Channel Sunday at 8, Z Friday at 6:30); Phar Lap (SelecTV and ON Monday at 7, Cinemax Tuesday at 6 and Movie Saturday at 9); Road Games (Z Monday at 7); Heat and Dust (Show Monday at 9); Pardon Mon Affaire (Z Tuesday at 7); The Night of the Shooting Stars (Movie Tuesday at 10); Murder on the Orient Express (WTBS Wednesday at 9:30); Day for Night (Z Thursday at 7); I'm All Right, Jack (Life Thursday at 8); The Conversation (WTBS Thursday at 9:30); Home From the Hill (Cinemax Friday at 8); S.O.S. Titanic (Life Friday at 8); White Line Fever (WGN Saturday at 8:30).