The Natural (NBC Sunday at 8:30 p.m., if not preempted by the World Series) is a sadly ponderous adaptation of Bernard Malamud's 1952 allegorical tragicomedy about baseball and a second chance at the American Dream. Director Barry Levinson and writers Roger Towne and Phil Dusenberry have given us a shiny, hugely ambitious saga with Robert Redford as Roy Hobbs, an almost-over-the-hill baseball player who takes on the world with a hand-carved, wood-burned bat that might easily have been named Excalibur as Wonderboy. Part of the problem in this bizarre mix of sports history and Arthurian legend is Redford, who embodies Roy without defining him. Ironically, everyone else is superb in a cast that includes Barbara Hershey, Kim Basinger, Glenn Close, Wilford Brimley, Richard Farnsworth, Robert Prosky, Darren McGavin and Joe Don Baker.
In the new TV movie Who Is Julia? (CBS Sunday at 9 p.m.) Mare Winningham (on the cover) becomes the first recipient of a brain transplant, which means that she must face life in a body not her own.
In Easy Prey (ABC Sunday at 9 p.m.), another new TV movie, Shawnee Smith plays a 16-year-old who is abducted by a serial rapist-murderer (Gerald McRaney) and taken on a cross-country ride of terror.
The B.R.A.T. Patrol (ABC Sunday at 7 p.m.) is also new, a comedy-adventure about a band of military brats who decide to destroy a black market operation.
Lindsay Wagner plays a woman struggling with amnesia in the new TV movie Stranger in My Bed (NBC Monday at 9 p.m.). Based on a true story, the film co-stars Armand Assante as Wagner's husband.
If you're a Travis McGee fan, don't expect much from The Empty Copper Sea (Channel 13 Monday at 8 p.m.), a lackluster 1983 TV movie starring Sam Elliott as John D. Macdonald's knight in tarnished armor.
Manhunt for Claude Dallas (CBS Tuesday at 9 p.m.), a new TV movie, stars Rip Torn as a modern-day mountain man on the run after shooting two game wardens.
Midway (which airs in two parts, Wednesday and Thursday at 8 p.m. on Channel 5) is a conventional but solid 1976 World War II picture. Its principal strength is that it keeps the battle lines of the momentous air-sea battle between the Japanese and the American fleets both straight and suspenseful in the viewer's mind.
Channel 11 gets the jump on Halloween, presenting Friday the 13th on Wednesday at 9 p.m. and Friday the 13th, Part II, on Thursday at 9. Sure enough Channel 11 saves Halloween (Friday at 9 p.m.) for Halloween. Only hard-core horror fans need bother with any of them.
Lone Wolf McQuade (Channel 13 Thursday 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).
Cattle Annie and Little Britches (Channel 11 Saturday at 9 p.m.) is too familiar to be truly compelling, but this 1983 Western is full of ingratiating good cheer, robust humor and, best of all, Burt Lancaster as a classic good-bad guy, an aging outlaw with a code of honor who crosses paths with a pair of orphans named Cattle Annie (Amanda Plummer) and Little Britches (Diane Lane).
Selected evening cable fare: Year of the Dragon (Z Sunday at 6:30 and Thursday at 9, SelecTV Saturday at 9:30); Crossover Dreams (SelecTV Monday at 8); They Won't Forget (Movie Channel Monday at 9, Thursday at 7); Dreamchild (SelecTV Tuesday at 6:30, Z Saturday at 9); Pilgrimage (Z Wednesday at 9); Night of the Living Dead (Z Friday at 7, WOR Saturday at 9); The Emperor Jones (AE Saturday at 7:30); The Fantasy Film World of George Pal (Disney Channel Saturday at 9).