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July 07, 1991|KEVIN THOMAS

The contradictory, increasingly incredible 1986 The Imagemaker (Channel 9 tonight at 8) is another scathing but oddly idolatrous look at that modern bete noire of liberals: the big-time political whiz (Michael Nouri).

Francis Coppola's The Cotton Club (Channel 13 tonight at 8) jettisons authenticity in regard to the famed Harlem hot spot yet is fairly dazzling entertainment anyway, a kind of gangster musical starring Richard Gere and Gregory Hines.

The Town Bully (ABC tonight at 9) is a goofy, dreadful 1988 TV movie about a community taking the law into its own hands in eradicating the title character (David Graf).

Pink Lightning (Channel 11 Monday at 8 p.m.), a new TV movie, is set in Central California in 1962 and deals with the coming of age of five young women, all close friends.

The 1988 TV movie Evil in Clear River (ABC Monday at 9 p.m.), a "fictionalized drama suggested by real events," portrays the attempt of one woman (well-played by Lindsay Wagner) to suppress anti-Semitic statements by the local teacher-mayor (Randy Quaid). However, the film is unsettling for several reasons: It skirts the issues it raises in regard to free speech and displays a moral ambivalence that seems not so much deliberate but as a result of a Swiss-cheese script.

A movie motto for the '80s (and now the '90s): Anything worth doing badly is worth doing again--especially if it made money. Critters 2: The Main Course (Channel 5 Tuesday at 8 p.m., again on Saturday at 6 p.m.) is the 1988 sequel to "Critters," the 1986 horror-comedy and "Gremlins" knockoff. Although better made than the first "Critters," it's still a pretty disreputable and mindless business about the return of those ravenous creatures who look like porcupine bowling balls.

The 1988 Shakedown (Channel 5 Thursday at 8 p.m., again on Saturday at 8 p.m.), is mindlessly enjoyable escapist fare in which a Manhattan legal aid attorney (Peter Weller) and grizzled undercover cop Sam Elliott declare war on drugs and corruption.

Promise (Channel 13 Thursday at 8 p.m.), a sweet, tender, deeply affecting 1986 multi-Emmy winner, stars James Garner as a carefree type who suddenly must honor his agreement to care for his emotionally disturbed brother (James Woods) once their mother has died. One of the Emmys went to Piper Laurie, sparkling as Garner's old flame.

Stacy's Knights (Channel 9 Saturday at 8 p.m.), a 1983 B movie about the world of professional gambling, is notable only as the first leading role of Kevin Costner.

Do the Right Thing (CBS Saturday at 8 p.m.). Everything came together for Spike Lee in his 1989 hit, one of the key American films of our time, in which he brought to vivid life everyday existence in a brownstone block in a black Brooklyn neighborhood, the center of which is a pizza joint run by a kindly but unthinkingly bigoted Italian-American (Danny Aiello, superb). As Lee acquaints us with a very large and distinctive number of people, he exudes a rich sense of humor that gives way to tragedy and rage before we know what has hit us.

Channel 28's Saturday-night double feature this week is a winner: Francois Truffaut's Shoot the Piano Player (at 9 p.m.) and Mario Monicelli's Big Deal on Madonna Street (at 10:30 p.m.).

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