The Sting, that unalloyed delight, airs Sunday at 8 p.m. on ABC. A pure entertainment film, it is impeccably crafted and well-deserving of its immense popularity. Robert Redford is the up-and-coming con man who persuades Paul Newman, a legendary big-time con man on the skids in Chicago, to help him get revenge on top New York racketeer Robert Shaw. How they go about trying to take Shaw in a big con makes for some of the funniest, most outrageous, suspenseful and surprising moments in a film in many a year.
Also airing at 8 p.m. Sunday (on CBS) is a rerun of the final installment of The Blue and the Gray, the entertaining Civil War saga.
Sunday at 9 p.m. on NBC brings a repeat of The Demon Murder Case, a so-so 1983 TV movie in which demonologist Andy Griffith, psychic Cloris Leachman and priest Eddie Albert try to exorcise the devil from young Charlie Fields.
The fine 1981 TV movie version of John Steinbeck's timeless Of Mice and Men (NBC Monday at 9 p.m.) stars Robert Blake and Randy Quaid in the roles created in the memorable 1939 film by Burgess Meredith and Lon Chaney Jr. Feisty little George (Blake) and Lennie (Quaid), a giant with the mind of a child, are drifters working the great California ranches of the '30s, dreaming of owning a place of their own when tragedy strikes.
Screening Monday at 9:10 p.m. on Channel 28 is that definitive cult film The King of Hearts, which makes the familiar and sentimental case that it's the world, not the inmates of an insane asylum, that's really crazy. The time and place: France during World War I.
Such Good Friends (Channel 13 Monday at 8 p.m.), Otto Preminger's hard-edged, sparkling 1971 film of the Lois Gould novel, stars Dyan Cannon in a scintillating performance as the chic Manhattan wife of a national magazine art director who's forced to examine her life and especially her marriage when her husband (Laurence Luckinbill) is suddenly at death's door after a minor operation.
Forty-Second Street (1933), the definitive backstage musical with Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell, airs Monday at 8 p.m. on Channel 5 to launch a week of screenings of films either directed or choreographed by Busby Berkeley. Coming up the rest of the week are Strike Up the Band (1940, Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney) on Tuesday at 8, Gold Diggers of 1933 (with Joan Blondell, Dick Powell) on Wednesday at 8, Footlight Parade (1933, James Cagney, Joan Blondell) Thursday at 8:30, Gold Diggers of 1935 (Dick Powell, Adolphe Menjou) Friday at 8:30 and Dames (1934, Joan Blondell, Dick Powell) Saturday at 8.
A routine TV movie, Carpool, repeats on CBS Tuesday at 8 p.m. Harvey Korman and Ernest Borgnine are among a group of down-at-the-heels carpoolers suddenly struck rich when a money bag tumbles from an armored truck.
Another TV movie in rerun, Sparkling Cyanide (CBS Wednesday at 9 p.m.) is an Agatha Christie mystery that loses some of its sparkle in its transposition from England to Pasadena. Anthony Andrews and Deborah Raffin star.
In The Final Countdown (ABC Thursday at 8 p.m.), the aircraft carrier Nimitz zips across 40 years in time to intercept the Japanese war fleet en route to Pearl Harbor. Curiously, the special effects are the weakest aspect of this 1980 release, but it gets by on the cleverness of its story, directed in straightforward fashion by Don Taylor. Kirk Douglas is the skipper, and others involved include Martin Sheen, Charles Durning and Katharine Ross. The film's real amusement comes in seeing how its preposterous premise is worked out.
An alternative Thursday at 8 p.m. on Channel 13 is Battle Cry, Raoul Walsh's rousing film of the Leon Uris World War II novel.
In one warming stroke, Rocky (CBS Friday at 8:30 p.m.) revived the vital tradition of the modestly budgeted, unpretentious movie that creates new stars (and myths) and commands the rousing affection of its audiences by proclaiming the possibilities of love, hope and triumph in the lives of ordinary men and women. Part Marty, part Brando of "On the Waterfront," Sylvester Stallone's Rocky is an awkward club fighter who, as the patsy in a promotion stunt, gets a shot at the heavyweight title.
One of the drollest American films in decades, Robert Benton's The Late Show (Channel 13 Saturday at 8 p.m.) teams (perfectly) Art Carney as an aging Hollywood private eye and Lily Tomlin as a flaky L.A. type. There's much shrewd but affectionate satire of the Hammett-Chandler archetypes.
Selected evening cable fare: The Dead Zone (Showtime Sunday at 8 and Friday at 9:30, ON and SelecTV Saturday at 7); The Neverending Story (ON and SelecTV Monday at 7); The Spoilers (Z Monday at 7); All the Right Moves (HBO Monday at 8); Kind Lady (Showtime Tuesday at 6:30); The Beguiled (Z Tuesday at 7); Moonlighting (ON and SelecTV Tuesday at 9); The Talk of the Town (WTBS Tuesday at 9:15); Stolen Kisses (Z Wednesday at 7:30); Beat the Devil (WTBS Wednesday at 9:30); Get Crazy (Cinemax Wednesday at 10); Small Change (Z Thursday at 7); Splendor in the Grass (WTBS Thursday at 7:50); Das Boot (Movie Channel Thursday at 8); Pennies From Heaven (Movie Channel Thursday at 10:30); Educating Rita (ON and SelecTV Friday at 7, Z Saturday at 7); Pork Chop Hill (WGN Saturday at 8:30).