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WEEKEND TV

'Tomorrow': Better The Second Day

March 15, 1986|HOWARD ROSENBERG | Times Television Critic

"If Tomorrow Comes" begins with a suicide. Three minutes later, there is a chase. Twenty-two minutes later, there is a shooting, your standard

ple-struggle-for-a-gun-that-discharges-and-hits-one-of-them-in-the-stomach bilge.

Ten minutes later, there is a trial. Three minutes later, the head prison guard tells the pregnant heroine to strip. Four minutes later, the heroine is beaten by her fellow inmates, suffering a miscarriage.

About this time, you begin glancing at your watch and thinking that "If Tomorrow Comes," you'd rather not see it. But hang in there. This seven-hour, three-part CBS miniseries--based on a Sidney Sheldon novel and beginning at 8 p.m. Sunday on Channels 2 and 8--turns into fabulous fluff after beginning as a goon parade.

And Madolyn Smith rockets to the forefront as one of TV's hottest hubba-hubba leading ladies with her fetching performance as Tracy Whitney, an innocent bank employee who suffers a series of tough breaks that turn her into an international jewel thief and conwoman. Listen, these things happen.

"If Tomorrow Comes" isn't much when the leggy Smith, who played Steve Martin's rejected fiancee in "All of Me," isn't around. Fortunately, she's around a lot. Get a load of her Texas drawl. Get a load of her .

Directed by supervising producer Jerry London and written by producer Carmen Culver, the first three hours are simply awful, nudged forward by script contrivances that send poor Tracy to jail for a crime she didn't commit and then spring her with a full pardon. You're required to suffer through repeated character flip-flops, including Tracy's best prison pal turning into a comic sidekick on the outside after being the shiv-wielding, toughest inmate in the cell block. And how about her husband's black jive talk?

"Girl, you crazy? Ain't no way you can mess with any of dem dudes and live to brag about it." Is he sure about that? "Sho, I'm sure."

Parts Two and Three (9-11 p.m. Monday and Tuesday) liberate the story from most of the stupidity, except for a grubby and deranged insurance investigator (David Keith) who looks off into space, stares at flames, carries an old clipping describing his mother's murder and mutters something about punishing Tracy as crazy music plays in the background. He's so terrifying that you want to laugH.

On a loftier level, Tracy cuts a delicious figure in Europe as a super thief and mistress of disguises under the guidance of the charming Gunther Hartog (Richard Kiley). She and conman Jeff Stevens (Tom Berenger) get together for a wonderful scam on a luxury liner as their attraction to each other grows and they become a very sexy couple.

The story ultimately becomes swell, witty, escapist fun, enhanced by gorgeous European exteriors and convincing performances by Kiley, Berenger and especially Smith, as TV Trash '86 continues on course.

Here are other weekend programs:

TODAY: The Los Angeles Unified School District's magnet schools are the subject of "Choices '86," 7:30 a.m. (11) and 1 p.m. (4). . . .

Flutist James Galway hosts "Ireland and the Irish," a St. Patrick's Day special, 1 p.m. (7). . . .

KCET Channel 28 offers a succession of profiles of famous performers, beginning with Ingrid Bergman at 1 p.m., followed by W. C. Fields at 2:30 p.m., James Cagney at 4:30 p.m., Spencer Tracy at 6 p.m. and, at 8 p.m., a new program, "Benny Goodman: Let's Dance." The latter program repeats Sunday at 6 p.m. (28). . . .

The Miss California Pageant unfolds at Knott's Berry Farm, 8 p.m. (9), 11 p.m. (42), 11:30 p.m. (51). . . .

A second edition of "Deja View," featuring new music videos of hit songs from the 1960s, unspools at 8 p.m. (13).

SUNDAY: Former Lt. Gov. Mike Curb, who wants to be reelected to that post, will be interviewed on "Channel 4 News Conference," 8:30 a.m. (4). . . .

Donald Regan, White House chief of staff, will discuss aid to the Nicaraguan contras, tax reform and U.S.-Soviet relations on "Meet the Press," 9:30 a.m. (4)(36)(39). . . .

Edwin Newman hosts "Taking Children Seriously," a special about eliciting and dealing with children's feelings, 10 a.m. (4). . . .

Vassiliy Safronchuk, acting permanent representative of the Soviet Union to the United Nations, Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.), Sen. William Cohen (R-Maine) and former CIA director Richard Helms will discuss Soviets in the United States on "This Week With David Brinkley," 10:30 a.m. (7)(10), 11:30 a.m. (3) (42). . . .

Gary Collins and Mary Ann Mobley host live coverage of the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Beverly Hills, 1:30 p.m. (11). . . .

"At Issue With David Garcia" looks at economic relations between the United States and Mexico, 3:30 p.m. (2). . . .

Father Robert Drinan, a law professor at Georgetown University and a former congressman, discusses Central America on "Newsmakers," 4 p.m. (2). . . .

"Face the Nation" talks about the space shuttle investigation with astronauts Henry Hartsfield Jr. and Paul Weitz, Sen. Jake Garn (R-Utah) and space historian Alex Roland of Duke University, 4:30 p.m. (2)(8). . . .

President Reagan will address the nation at 5 p.m. on ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN. . . .

"60 Minutes" reports on how the gay community in San Francisco is coping with the AIDS epidemic, investigates real-estate seminars and looks at professional boxing, 7 p.m. (2)(8). . . .

Public television concludes its March fund-raising drive with "Gala of Stars '86," taped at the Vienna State Opera with Beverly Sills as host, 7 p.m. (50), 8 p.m. (28)(15). . . .

"Women of the World" spotlights Nazi hunter Beate Klarsfeld, French lawyer and politician Simone Veil, actress Sonia Braga and singer Yoko Ono, 8 p.m. (9). Jacqueline Bisset hosts.

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