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May 31, 1987|Michael Wilmington

Sunday's fare commences with the creme de la creme of Danny Kaye: his 1956 spoof of knight errantry and errant nights, The Court Jester (Channel 11 at 4 p.m.), written and directed by Norman Panama and Melvin Frank. Even Errol Flynn must have envied Danny: Jousts and jests are juggled jauntily, swashes are buckled and unbuckled swishingly, and Kaye's toes and tongue were never livelier. All together now: The pellet with the poison's in the vessel with the pestle . . . .

An ambitious liberal young U.S. Senator, a sexy blonde, a forgiving wife. . . . This kind of stuff isn't the exclusive property of glamorous, improbable reality. Occasionally, you see them in a mundane, everyday movie. More particularly in The Seduction of Joe Tynan (Channel 13 Sunday at 6 p.m.), a 1979 political drama written by and starring Alan Alda, with Meryl Streep and Barbara Harris as the women in his life. (Maybe now that Alda's got it out of his system, he could run for President.) Jerry Schatzberg ("Street Smart") directs, and the Miami Herald is nowhere in sight--unless they're hiding under the TV set.

Three made-for-TV items are also available, all at 9 p.m. Sunday. They've got a familiar ring. The adoption soaper Sentimental Journey (CBS), is loosely based on the 1946 "Sentimental Journey" with John Payne and Maureen O'Hara. Riviera (ABC) has an inspiring subject: a man's desperate attempt to save his father's French chateau, while simultaneously battling agents and enemies of something called "The Bureau." John Frankenheimer directs. Two Fathers' Justice (NBC), with Robert Conrad and George Hamilton, is bloody revenge time again, with steelworker and executive dads banding together to blow away drug dealer-murderers. Is this 1970's "Joe" in reverse?

On Monday, one of the cinema's grandest efforts is back for an encore. Rainer Werner Fassbinder's Berlin Alexanderplatz--airing in hourlong segments on Channel 28 (11:05 p.m., Monday through Thursday nights through June 18)--was made for German TV in 1979-80. It was Fassbinder's inarguable career peak: a 15 1/2-hour adaptation of Alfred Doblin's neglected masterpiece. Doblin's novel suggests Celine and Kafka as he scathingly views Nazi-dom's rise, through the eyes of lumpenproletariat Franz Biberkopf, a tormented ex-convict, adrift in Berlin's unsavory underworld. The acting, cinematography and art direction here are miles above most TV serials, but what affects you most in this great work is the murderously consistent perspective: a cynical, despairing, finally near-mystical view of the 20th Century's peculiar terrors.

You can see soldiers on their best behavior--or at least their best language--in Richard Fleischer's 1956 Between Heaven and Hell (Channel 5 Monday at 8 p.m.). Then you can hear the Navy at its worst, in 1973's terrific The Last Detail (Channel 7 Monday at 8 p.m., following baseball). Written by Robert Towne and directed by Hal Ashby, this wildly veristic tale of two guards, including Jack Nicholson, escorting a hapless swabbie to Leavenworth--and giving him one last blast along the way--has such scorching dialogue it rarely survives intact on non-cable TV. (Nicholson's best speeches often come out as a succession of blanks and bleeps.) All we can say is: Great -------- work, Jack.

Wednesday offers flower power vs. the Marines in Tribes (Channel 5 at 8 p.m.); Stanley Kramer in the oil fields in Oklahoma Crude (Channel 13 at 8 p.m.), and Jack Lemmon fooling around with Catherine Deneuve (he gets paid for this?) in The April Fools (Channel 11 at 9 p.m.)

Honeysuckle Rose (Channel 13 Thursday at 8 p.m.), directed by Jerry Schatzberg, is an underrated musical drama. Best known for the great Willie Nelson sound track, it also combs unusual warmth, humanity and sympathy from what first seems a ridiculous format: a modern C&W remake of the old Ingrid Bergman-Leslie Howard romance, "Intermezzo."

On Friday, the top choices are relatively antique: Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks in the 1929 Taming of the Shrew (Channel 28 at 10 p.m.)--which has that classic credit, "From the play by William Shakespeare; additional dialogue by Sam Taylor"--and Janet Gaynor and Fredric March in the first of the many versions of A Star Is Born (Channel 28 at 11:15 p.m.)

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