Alan Parker's Fame (Channel 5 Sunday at 6 p.m.) begins with a terrific 10 minutes: the routine at New York's High School of the Performing Arts, squeezed into a blazing music video. Then it collapses under a script full of vacuous teen revelry, fame mongering and I-wanna-be-a-star drivel. Every once in a while, another song comes along and picks it back up again, making this one movie that should face the music, dance and kick out the rest. That's Irene Cara on the title number--as if you didn't know.
The rest of Sunday: Mark Rydell's Cinderella Liberty (Channel 9 at 11 p.m.) springs from a soapy Darryl Ponicsan novel about a guilt-haunted sailor's romance with a prostitute (Marsha Mason) and her mulatto son. Ponicsan isn't as good at adapting himself as Robert Towne was, on "The Last Detail." But, as the sailor, James Caan gives a wonderful performance: energetic, sincere and pure as rainfall. Little Girl Lost (ABC at 9 p.m.), a made-for-TV movie with Tess Harper, raises issues of child molestation, foster homes and custody battles.
Monday shows both Alan Alda and John Carpenter at less than their best. Alda is a college professor coping with history and Hollywood on a movie location in Sweet Liberty (Channel 5 at 8 p.m.). Carpenter burrows through the bowels of San Francisco's Chinatown, encrusted with Fu Manchu decor, choppy-socky cliches and a John Wayne impersonation by Kurt Russell that he'd probably rather forget, in Big Trouble in Little China (Channel 11 at 8 p.m.)
George Roy Hill's Slap Shot (Channel 13 Tuesday at 8 p.m.) is an ingratiatingly cynical sports comedy about a minor-league hockey coach (Paul Newman, in a performance that oozes puckish charm), setting a fast pace in the boudoir, while hoking up his team with calculated violence. (Nancy Dowd wrote the mean, funny lines.)
Also on Tuesday: Hell and High Water (Channel 11 at 8 p.m.), a Sam Fuller war movie (not his best, either) set aboard a submarine in the Arctic, with Richard Widmark and Bella Darvi. And there's the ill-fated Brainstorm (Channel 5 at 8 p.m.), Natalie Wood's last movie, with Douglas Trumbull's revolutionary visual effects probably barely perceptible on the TV screen.
John Ford's "Seven Women" is discussed, and recommended, elsewhere today. Another great Irish Catholic American film maker, Leo McCarey, also set his last movie in China: the 1962 Satan Never Sleeps (Channel 11 Wednesday at 8 p.m.), loosely based on Pearl Buck's "A China Story." But, unlike Ford, McCarey didn't extract any timeless moral drama from the tale. Caught up in another of his late-career anti-Commie diatribes, McCarey has William Holden and Clifton Webb as, essentially, Father O'Malley and Fitzgibbon battling the Reds, with a lot of Civil War, rapine, pillage and celibacy jokes to spice up the stew. It's a bitter valedictory.
And if you want to see how far romantic comedy has sunk since the heyday of McCarey, Lubitsch, Hawks and Cukor--Woody Allen honorably excepted--take a look at ex-Allen cohort Marshall Brickman's Lovesick (Channel 13 Tuesday at 8 p.m.), with Dudley Moore as a Manhattan psychiatrist and Elizabeth McGovern as a kind of yuplet. Better yet, don't.
To Hell and Back (Channel 11 Thursday at 8 p.m.) is a real curiosity: a film bio, from his book, of the exploits of the most decorated World War II soldier, Audie Murphy--with then-movie star Murphy playing himself. Beyond the casting, Jesse Hibbs' movie is stuck in Purgatory. (Interestingly, World War II's fourth most decorated soldier also became a movie actor, and a fine one--though ex-G.I. Neville Brand rarely played anything but heavies.)
Notes from the pre- glasnost era. Back in 1960, a look at the filming of Can-Can (Channel 9 Saturday at 10 p.m.) which starred Frank Sinatra, Maurice Chevalier and the eternally sexy Shirley MacLaine, prompted an outraged Nikita Khrushchev to remark: "The face of humanity is more beautiful than its backside!"--a sentiment you might want to ponder.
Also on tap on a rich Saturday: David Seltzer's funny-sad, wonderful teen movie Lucas (CBS at 8 p.m.), a real heartwarmer, and no kidding. And Alan Pakula's icily terrific modern true-crime thriller All the President's Men (Channel 13 at 10 p.m.) with Redford and Hoffman as the Martin and Lewis of journalism--or are they the Woodward and Bernstein of movies?
The ratings checks on movies in the TV log are provided by the Tribune TV Log listings service.