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December 30, 1990|KEVIN THOMAS

The 1981 Only When I Laugh (Channel 5 Sunday at 6 p.m.), one of the best of the Neil Simon movies, deals with the demands of motherhood and career plus the curse of alcoholism, but what is really central to its story is Simon's concern for nature of friendship. With Marsha Mason, Kristy McNichol, Joan Hackett and James Coco.

That's Entertainment, Part 2 (Channel 5 Sunday at 8 p.m.) is not as cohesive as Part I and also includes sequences from comedies and dramas as well as musicals; still, it's a joy.

Vestige of Honor (CBS Sunday at 9 p.m.), a new TV movie starring Gerald McRaney and Michael Gross, was inspired by the experiences of Don Scott, an American businessman who returns to Thailand to honor a broken promise to a now-dispossessed tribespeople loyal to America during the Vietnam War.

A wise, delicious musical sendup of all the absurdities and hypocrisies surrounding the issue of sexual orientation, Blake Edwards' 1982 Victor/Victoria (Channel 5 Monday at 7:30 p.m.) stars Julie Andrews as a singer so down on her luck in Depression-era Paris she accepts a job as a female impersonator. With Robert Preston and James Garner.

Chinatown (Channel 13 Tuesday at 7:50 p.m.), the landmark 1974 film superbly written by Robert Towne and directed by Roman Polanski, is the quintessential L.A. private eye yarn about love and murder provoked by an idealist posing as a cynic (Jack Nicholson); a stunning revelation of corruption both personal and political inspired by local history.

In the scary and suspenseful 1981 Eye of the Needle (Channel 7 Tuesday at 9:30 p.m.), a lovely woman (Kate Nelligan) living on a remote island off Scotland with her crippled husband (Christopher Cazenove) crosses paths with a spectacularly resourceful and heartless Nazi spy (a chilling yet charming Donald Sutherland).

Sweet Smell of Success (Show Wednesday at 10 a.m., CMAX Thursday at 3:45 p.m.) After 33 years, this remains one of the most corrosive of American films. Best are the performances director Alexander Mackendrick got from Burt Lancaster as a megalomaniacal Broadway columnist, and especially from Tony Curtis as as an ultra-ambitious press agent.

Midway (Channel 5 Wednesday at 8 p.m., completed Thursday at 8 p.m.) is a conventional but solid 1976 World War II picture. Its principal strength is that it keeps the battle lines of the momentous air/sea fight between the Japanese and American fleets both straight and suspenseful.

Ladyhawke (Channel 13 Friday at 8 p.m.), an enchanting, handsomely produced medieval fantasy, finds lovers Rutger Hauer and Michelle Pfeiffer separated by the black arts of a jealous (and decidedly unfrocked ) bishop. Matthew Broderick plays their unlikely ally, a scruffy, endearing pickpocket, in this 1985 winner.

The Bounty (Channel 9 Saturday at 8 p.m.) suffers structurally from having been planned as two separate films that ended up compressed into one, but it nevertheless emerges as a robust, pictorially glorious adventure under Roger Donaldson's direction and is especially memorable for Anthony Hopkins' intense and hard-pressed rather than all-out evil Captain Bligh. With Mel Gibson as a handsome Fletcher Christian.

Ghostbusters (ABC Saturday at 9 p.m.) is the 1984 mega-hit comedy starring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis as three whimsical chaps in pursuit of things that go bump in the night. Their leading lady is Sigourney Weaver.

The Loved One (Channel 28 Saturday at 11 p.m.) is Tony Richardson's diverting, all-star 1965 film of Evelyn Waugh's satire of life and death in Southern California, with Forest Lawn as the primary target.

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