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June 21, 1987|Kevin Thomas

Warren Beatty's Heaven Can Wait (ABC Sunday at 9 p.m.) is a rousing, deliciously sophisticated update of the 1941 fantasy "Here Comes Mr. Jordan" that preserves the wonderful, funny, lyrical optimism of the original. Beatty produced, co-authored (with Elaine May) and co-directed (with Buck Henry) this 1978 production in which he stars as a pro football quarterback whose death is untimely in every sense and who gets two more tries at earthly pleasures. Henry plays Beatty's incompetent guardian angel, and Julie Christie is the woman he loves in every incarnation. There's sparkling support from Jack Warden, Dyan Cannon, Charles Grodin, James Mason and Vincent Gardenia.

In Paternity (NBC Sunday at 9 p.m.) Burt Reynolds plays a self-centered, inconsiderate 44-year-old man who pays $50,000 to waitress/music student Beverly D'Angelo to bear his child so he can have "something that says Buddy Evans was here." The problem is that, even though a romance develops with D'Angelo, Buddy changes not at all, which means the film leaves a sour aftertaste.

Also airing Sunday at 9 p.m. (on CBS) is the routine 1985 TV movie Picking Up the Pieces, in which Margot Kidder stars as a newly separated wife with three children who is faced with the wrath of her vindictive husband (David Ackroyd).

In the new TV movie The Ladies (NBC Monday at 9 p.m.) Patricia Elliott and Talia Balsam star as a mother and daughter who become reluctant roommates when the mother is facing a divorce.

Airing Monday at 9 p.m. on Channel 7 is the outstanding 1977 TV movie The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald, which imagines what would have happened to Oswald had not Jack Ruby killed him. John Pleshette excels as Oswald.

Also airing at 9 p.m. Monday (on Channel 28) is Waiting for the Moon, director Jill Godmilow and writer Mark Magill's imaginary biography of the intertwined lives of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. Although Linda Bassett bears little resemblance to Stein, she and Linda Hunt (as Toklas) are excellent as the longtime friends and lovers who deal with everyday life with uncommon wit and subtlety. Magill is to be credited with constructing the film in rhythms uncannily like Stein's, but the film's overall effect is awfully precious.

A Summer to Remember (CBS Tuesday at 9 p.m.) is a warm, pleasant 1985 TV movie about a deaf boy (Sean Justin Gerlis, actually deaf since birth) who develops a special relationship with an orangutan that can use sign language. James Farentino and Tess Harper are his stepfather and mother.

Another TV movie in rerun, the 1984 City Killer (NBC Tuesday at 9 p.m.) is a trite thriller about a spurned man who blows up skyscrapers to get the attention of the woman who rejected him. Gerald McRaney and Heather Locklear star.

Terrence Malick's Days of Heaven (Channel 13 Wednesday at 8 p.m.) is one of the most beautiful color films ever made, a poetic turn-of-the-century love triangle set against a wheat harvest in the Midwest and involving Richard Gere, Brooke Adams and Sam Shepard. Nestor Alemendros won an Oscar for his glorious 70 mm. camera work, which inevitably will be diminished on TV.

Despite an unsatisfactory ending, writer-director Bill Norton's Cisco Pike (Channel 13 Thursday at 8 p.m.) is a powerful lament for the grim death of all the hopes the early rock music scene embodied. Kris Kristofferson, in his screen debut as a passe rock idol, Gene Hackman as a cop who tries to blackmail him, and Karen Black as the girl too in love with Kristofferson to leave him are all excellent in this most evocative film.

Like its predecessors, Rocky III (CBS Thursday at 9 p.m.) is a movie in the brightest primary colors, with thundering sound and lots of inspirational music. What's amazing is how well Sylvester Stallone has got Rocky up on his feet for yet another bout, this time with Mr. T.

There's considerable wry charm in Fools' Parade (Channel 13 Friday at 8 p.m.), which is memorable for James Stewart's performance as an ex-con who plans to set up a business with the $25,000 he earned while serving a 40-year sentence.

That '50s classic, the original biker film The Wild One (Channel 13 Saturday at 10 p.m.), stars Marlon Brando as the leader of a Hell's Angels-like gang that terrorizes a small central California town. (The film is based on an actual incident that occurred in Hollister.)

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