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June 26, 1988|KEVIN THOMAS

The effervescent My Favorite Year (Channel 5 Sunday at 6 p.m.), one of the '80s best comedies, takes us behind the scenes of a "Your Show of Shows"-like TV variety program, circa 1954, when the special guest is an Errol Flynn/John Barrymore-like star, a fabled drunk who is played with such elegant and rueful humor by Peter O'Toole that he won a 1982 Oscar nomination. The central figure, however, is the show's most junior writer (Mark Linn-Baker).

Jack Nicholson directed as well as starred in the amiable, scruffy 1979 comedy-Western Goin' South (Channel 13 Sunday at 8 p.m.), in which Nicholson's failed horse thief saves himself from a hanging by marrying Mary Steenburgen's iron-willed spinster. Notable not only for Steenburgen's screen debut but also that of John Belushi in a hilarious cameo.

In a repeat of Perry Mason: The Case of the Notorious Nun (NBC Sunday at 9 p.m.), the attorney (Raymond Burr) defends a nun (Michele Greene of "L.A. Law") accused of murdering a priest.

Rouben Mamoulian's 1941 version of Blood and Sand launches a week of worthy Tyrone Power movies on Channel 11 Monday at 8 p.m. The others are The Black Swan (Tuesday at 8:30 p.m.; the rest air at 8 p.m.), The Razor's Edge (Wednesday), King of the Khyber Rifles (Thursday) and The Sun Also Rises (Friday). All in all a good selection that acquaints a younger generation with a dashing top star who died at only 44 in 1959.

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do (Channel 5 Monday and Tuesday at 8 p.m.), a four-hour, two-part 1979 TV movie, is long-winded but admirable in the way it presents the anguish of divorce from the husband's point of view. Robert Conrad stars.

Nightingales (NBC Monday at 9 p.m.) is a new TV movie focusing on the lives of eight student nurses.

Stay Hungry (Channel 7 Monday at 9 p.m.), Bob Rafelson's uneven but admirably venturesome 1976 film, is based on Charles Gaines' purportedly autobiographical novel. Jeff Bridges stars as a Southern aristocrat, a scion of an Alabama steel family, who hangs out at a gym imperiled by high-rise developers. Bridges unfortunately never gets to convey much deep conflict over divided loyalties, and the film ends on an unconvincingly uproarious note.

Passion Flower (CBS Tuesday at 9 p.m.) is a so-so 1986 TV movie that plays like an old B- movie. Bruce Boxleitner stars as an American banking executive in Singapore, where Barbara Hershey is the heiress to one of the Far East's largest fortunes.

It's lamentable that the 1986 film of Richard Wright's landmark Native Son (Channel 28 Wednesday at 8 p.m.) is an instance of making a molehill out of a mountain. Much of Wright's insight into the psychology of black rage has been shorn, the murder of a crucial character has been deleted, and the entire production has too much of a standard TV drama to it. Victor Love stars as Bigger Thomas, a poor young black whose new job as a chauffeur to a rich white family leads to tragedy. Despite vibrant performances from Love and many others, the film is hopelessly plodding. Wright's timelier-than-ever classic is too important a work of literature to merit such a mundane fate.

Robert Wise's Audrey Rose (Channel 13 Wednesday at 8 p.m.) is a reincarnation thriller that doesn't quite come together. Anthony Hopkins, however, is compelling as a man convinced that the 12-year-old daughter of Marsha Mason and John Beck is his own dead child returned to life.

If you're unable to recall what happened on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey during World War I, don't worry, for unfamiliarity only heightens the sting of Peter Weir's sweeping 1981 Gallipoli (Channel 13 Thursday at 8 p.m.). To Weir and writer David Williamson, the events that took place there represent an appointment with destiny and an end of innocence for his two young heroes (Mark Lee, Mel Gibson--this was Gibson's big break) and Australia as well. As it proceeds to the battlefield with a sense of the inevitable, Gallipoli also becomes a reverie, a loving tribute to the rugged Australian land and character.

If you're 50 or thereabouts you may recall that September 30, 1955 (Channel 5 Thursday at 8 p.m.) was that date of James Dean's death, the traumatic event of an entire generation. Unfortunately, James Bridges' depiction of the impact of Dean's fate on an Arkansas undergrad (Richard Thomas) is contrived and unconvincing.

Independence Day (Channel 13 Saturday at 8 p.m.) is the kind of modest, low-budget picture that all too easily gets lost. Ostensibly, this 1983 production is about small-town girl Kathleen Quinlan resisting auto mechanic boyfriend David Keith in order to pursue her big-city dreams. But Quinlan's conventional dilemma is upstaged by a subplot in which Dianne Wiest is absolutely unforgettable as the terrified wife of an abusive Cliff De Young.

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