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June 05, 1988|KEVIN THOMAS

Short Circuit (NBC Sunday at 9 p.m.) asks us to imagine a runaway robot plunging off a bridge and landing on the lunch wagon of anti-nuke animal lover Ally Sheedy, who initially mistakes her unexpected visitor from outer space. Short Circuit, which co-stars Steve Guttenberg as the robot's young genius creator, comes up with an appealing creature but with only a so-so story to go with it.

Dennis Weaver heads an excellent cast in the 1987 TV movie, Bluffing It (ABC Sunday at 9 p.m.), a hard-core message drama in which Weaver plays a middle-age Boston factory foreman whose inability to read or write beyond a fourth-grade level finally catches up with him. Potent even though didactic.

Marie: A True Story (Channel 5 at 8 p.m. Monday and again on Saturday) may well be more effective on television, which is so much more hospitable these days to the well-made, straightforward, socially conscious drama than the big screen. At any rate, Sissy Spacek is outstanding as a genuine contemporary heroine, Marie Ragghianti, one-time head of the Tennessee State Parole Board, who successfully sued for unlawful dismissal against former Tennessee Gov. Ray Blanton--patron of a widespread scheme to peddle clemencies and pardons which discredited his administration and helped him land in jail. (Blanton has just announced he intends a political comeback.)

Hard to Hold (Channel 13 Monday at 8 p.m.), a silly, dreadfully miscalculated attempt to launch singer Rick Springfield on a movie career, should have been called "Hard to Watch."

Can You Feel Me Dancing? (NBC Monday at 9 p.m.) is a notable 1986 TV movie about a blind teen-ager's struggle for independence. Justine and Jason Bateman star.

Set in Havana on the eve of Castro's revolution, Cuba (Channel 7 Monday at 9 p.m.) is such a listless tale of romance and intrigue you have to wonder why it was made (in 1979) or what attracted it to Sean Connery, no less, who stars as a seasoned mercenary hired by Batista general Martin Balsam to help quell the rebels.

The 1985 TV movie remake of Joseph L. Mankiewicz's classic 1948 A Letter to Three Wives (NBC Tuesday at 8 p.m.) has been updated by writer Sally Robinson, but it lacks the snap and crackle of the original, stressing romance over wit. Loni Anderson, Michele Lee and Stephanie Zimbalist play broadly under the sluggish direction of Larry Elikann, but the device of having the trio receive a letter from a mutual friend, announcing that she's run off with one of their husbands and leaving them to wonder which one, still intrigues.

Robert Redford's splendid 1980 illumination of the upper-middle-class WASP psyche, Ordinary People, is back on Channel 13 Tuesday at 8 p.m.

Sidney Lumet's Prince of the City (airing in two parts on Channel 13 Wednesday and Thursday at 8 p.m.), based on Robert Daley's book about an actual NYPD detective-turned-informer, is a lumpily structured endurance test that addresses both the broad issue of police corruption and the nagging one of personal guilt: How does each one of us deal with the dishonesty we encounter in our jobs? In the central role, Treat Williams, an unlikely Italian-American, seems over his head in portraying a young man who's quickly over his head himself, torn by conflicting loyalties and vulnerable on all sides. An admirable attempt but a failure as art or entertainment.

Also a repeat: Robert M. Young's The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez (Channel 28 Wednesday at 9 p.m.), a compelling Western that vividly dramatizes the fate of an innocent Mexican (an intense Edward James Olmos), a victim of prejudice at its most virulent. It's based on an incident that occurred in Texas in 1901.

The 1979 Zulu Dawn (Channel 5 Thursday at 8 p.m.) is one of those sweeping historical spectacles involving some elaborately staged battles waged by the British imperialists against the natives and invariably featuring an array of stalwart British actors. Here, it's a simple matter of good (the Zulus) versus evil (the Brits). Burt Lancaster and Peter O'Toole star.

There is no hint that The Concorde: Airport '79 (ABC Thursday at 8 p.m.) was meant to be a spoof, but it sure plays like one. Robert Wagner stars as a deranged weapons manufacturer who launches a series of explosive attacks on a supersonic jet in flight to protect his own guilty secret. Piloting the ill-fated jet are Alain Delon, and of course, George Kennedy.

The very standard 1984 TV movie Jealousy (Channel 2 Thursday at 9:30 p.m.) finds Angie Dickinson mixing it up with the green-eyed monster in three separate tales.

In the highly suspenseful 1976 Two-Minute Warning (Channel 5 Friday at 8:30 p.m.), directed with terrific energy and control by Larry Peerce, a football game takes on a subtly symbolic aspect as the cops pursue a mad sniper on the loose in a packed football stadium. Charlton Heston, John Cassavetes, Gena Rowlands, Beau Bridges and Jack Klugman star. (Let's hope this is the original version, not the one with another ending tacked on for TV viewing.)

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