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December 14, 1986|Kevin Thomas

James Garner, James Woods and Piper Laurie star in Promise (CBS Sunday at 9 p.m.), a new "Hallmark Hall of Fame" drama (illustrated on cover) about a carefree bachelor (Garner) suddenly confronted with caring for his schizophrenic brother (Woods). Laurie plays a friend of the family.

On a considerably less serious note, Dolly Parton makes her TV movie debut in A Smoky Mountain Christmas (ABC Sunday at 9 p.m.), a musical fairy tale in which a country singer (Parton, natch) seeking a quiet Christmas ends up involved in an adventure with seven orphans.

Sunday at 9 p.m. on NBC is a rerun of 48 HRS., Walter Hill's smart, rambunctious crooks-and-cops comedy in which Eddie Murphy made a smash debut as a slick con on a two-day leave from prison to help San Francisco police detective Nick Nolte nail one of Murphy's former cohorts. It's fun, but pretty violent in its slam-bang way.

This week's "Disney Sunday Movie" is the new TV film The Christmas Star (ABC at 7 p.m.), in which Ed Asner plays a con man believed to be Santa Claus by two children.

Barbra Streisand made a notable directorial debut with Yentl (Channel 5 Monday at 7:30 p.m.), a warm, loving adaptation of the Isaac Bashevis Singer story about a young Eastern European Jewish woman who, at the turn of the century, dresses as a man in order to get an education. There are pleasant Marilyn and Alan Bergman songs, a beautiful Michel Legrand score and fine performances from Mandy Patinkin and Amy Irving.

Yentl launches a week of outstanding musicals on Channel 5, all airing at 8 p.m. Others: "An American in Paris" (Tuesday), "High Society" (Wednesday), "The Band Wagon" (Thursday), "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" (Friday), "Show Boat" (Saturday).

Sweet Charity, the terrific Bob Fosse-directed musical adapted from Fellini's "Nights of Cabiria" and starring Shirley MacLaine in one of her best hooker roles, airs Thursday at 9 p.m. on Channel 11, as that station also has a week of musicals nightly at 9. Others: "The Glenn Miller Story" (Monday at 8:30), "The Benny Goodman Story" (Tuesday), "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" (Wednesday), "Carousel" (Friday at 8:30).

A Year in the Life, a new six-hour, three-part saga that follows a family from one Christmas to the next, occupies NBC Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, 9-11 p.m. Richard Kiley and Eva Marie Saint star.

Although needlessly repetitive and lacking in incisiveness, Greta Schiller and Robert Rosenberg's Before Stonewall (Channel 50 Tuesday at 8 p.m., Channel 28 Wednesday at 10 p.m., Channel 24 Friday at 9:30 p.m.) is an absorbing, often painful, occasionally funny and always invaluable historical record of homosexual men and women speaking of what it meant to grow up and live in America before gay liberation.

Izzy and Moe, a 1985 TV movie comedy Tuesday at 9 p.m. on CBS, reunited Jackie Gleason and Art Carney as legendary ex-vaudevillians-turned-Prohibition agents, but the result was only so-so.

Laurie Lazin's 30-minute The Flapper Story (Channel 50 Wednesday at 8:30 p.m., Channel 28 at 9:30 p.m., Channel 24 at 10:30 p.m.), a winner in the 1986 Focus Film Festival, tells of young women liberating themselves in the 1920s.

A new TV movie version of Victor Herbert's Babes in Toyland (NBC Friday at 8 p.m.) stars Drew Barrymore as a little girl who wakes up, after an accident, in the magical world of Toyland.

Also Friday: The splendid 1951 British version of A Christmas Carol, starring Alastair Sim as Scrooge, at 8:30 p.m. on Channel 7; George T. Nierenberg's infectious documentary on gospel singers, Say Amen, Somebody (Channel 28 at 10 p.m.) which suggests that for black Christians, religion can be a joy rather than a duty, a fusion rather than separation of body and soul.

Ralph Waite and Lee Remick star in A Good Sport, a 1984 TV movie repeating on CBS Saturday at 9 p.m. Waite is a newspaper sports columnist and Remick a fashion magazine editor who try to be friends without romantic entanglements.

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