Sunday's smorgasbord of movies goes all the way from Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz in Vincente Minnelli's The Long, Long Trailer (Channel 5 at 6 p.m.) to the return of the first, and best, of movie James Bonds (Sean Connery) in Irvin Kershner's Never Say Never Again (ABC at 8 p.m.) (Though, perhaps Connery should have said "Never again" himself.) There's also a new made-for-TV drama on modern families and modern romance: Something in Common (CBS at 9 p.m.), with Ellen Burstyn, Tuesday Weld and Eli Wallach mulling it over under Glenn Jordan's direction.
But the Sunday piece de resistance is Steven Spielberg's Duel (Channel 13 at 2 p.m.). It's a horrific made-for-TV fable about a lonely driver pursued by a maniacal, smoke-belching truck--which, for some dark reason, wants him dead. Spielberg made "Duel" at 24; arguably, he was never better.
Monday brings the '60's most opulently heart-tugging love story as Omar Sharif and Julie Christie stare longingly at each other across frozen white wastes in David Lean's super-epic Doctor Zhivago (Channel 5 at 6 p.m.). Ah, romance! Ah, Russia! Ah, renounced and impossible love! This one always breaks our little Technicolor heart. (Did it break author Boris Pasternak's as well?) The less romantically inclined may find amusement in Lewis Teague's 1980 Alligator (Channel 11 at 9 p.m.), a John Sayles-scripted sendup of monster movies (with the croc that rocked Chicago).
Ladies and gentlemen! On Tuesday--in this corner--you have a double karate shot of Chuck Norris: Paul Aaron's 1979 A Force of One and Eric Karson's 1980 The Octagon (Channel 11 at 7 and 9 p.m., respectively). And, going against both Norrises--in this corner--from Philadelphia--the undefeated champion of the universe and all points beyond--weighing in at 180 pounds--the original, unspoiled and as-yet unsequeled Italian Stallion-- Rockeee Balbowahh!!! --in 1976's Rocky (Channel 5 at 7:30 p.m.), directed by John Avildsen, written by and starring Sylvester Stallone. What can we say? (Yo!)
Wednesday brings us dueling Bronsons: Charles Bronson goes against himself in Peter Hunt's Death Hunt (Channel 5 at 8 p.m.) and Richard Fleischer's Mr. Majestyk (Channel 13 at 8 p.m.). You're better off with "Majestyk." It has juicier action (fruit-pickers instead of Canadian Mounties), and an Elmore Leonard script.
Bob Clark's 1981 Porky's (Channel 11 Wednesday at 9 p.m.) was truly one of the seminal movies of the '80s. Here, for the first time, we watched daffy, goofy, sex-crazed high-schoolers running around, belching, yelling, screaming profanities, sneaking into bordellos and peeking into the girls' shower room. You have to admit: The first time around, it was sort of funny. (It became maddening the next hundred times around.)
Thursday brings Part 1 of the 1976 true-crime thriller, Helter Skelter (Channel 11 at 9 p.m.)--written by JP Miller, directed by Tom Gries, and featuring a blood-freezing impersonation of "Family" leader Charles Manson by Steve Railsback. (It concludes Friday at the same time.)
It's a sad experience to watch Steve McQueen's last performance in Buzz Kulik's The Hunter (Channel 13 Friday at 8 p.m.). Both the movie and the cancer-stricken McQueen look tired unto death. (It's repeated Saturday at 11:30 p.m.)
On Saturday, you have solid choices. There's Ted Post's underrated 1978 Go Tell the Spartans (Channel 11 at 9 p.m.), a surprisingly raw and real Vietnam War post-mortem, with Burt Lancaster as a morally troubled commander. And, finally, we have a movie director--the great John Ford, who made Westerns more easily than most people make their car payments, with his 1961 Two Rode Together (Channel 9 at 10 p.m.) It's one of Ford's late, melancholy Westerns--an informal reprise of "The Searchers," with James Stewart and Richard Widmark as cynically sparring rescuers and combatants on the trail of some Comanche captives. It doesn't match "The Searchers." (What does?) But John Ford is still a name at whose mention all but a handful of modern movie makers should doff their hats and blush.
Selected evening cable picks: Tobacco Road (Z Sunday at 5:30); Stranger Than Paradise (Movie Channel Monday at 7:30, Thursday at 11); Brief Encounter (Bravo Monday at 8); Pauline at the Beach (Bravo Wednesday at 8); Jaws (Cinemax Wednesday at 8, Movie Channel Saturday at 9); The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (Disney Wednesday at 9)