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Prime-Time Flicks

July 10, 1994|Kevin Thomas

A New Jersey baby--his mother (Karla Tamburrelli)l dead and his father (Michael Ontkean, in a devilish change of pace) in the slammer for her murder--is the center of a fierce custody case waged by embattled relatives in the engrossing 1991 TV movie In a Child's Name (CBS Sunday at 9 p.m., concluding Tuesday at 9 p.m.).

Suburban Commando (NBC Sunday at 9 p.m.) is a likable but mostly frowzy action comedy-fantasy about a repressed architect (Christopher Lloyd), his smiling wife (Shelley Duvall) and a Han Solo-style outer-space adventurer (Hulk Hogan) who rents their suburban apartment and promptly demolishes every troublemaker in the neighborhood.

Night of the Hunter (ABC Sunday at 9 p.m.), a mediocre 1991 TV movie remake of the classic 1955 chiller "The Night of the Hunter," affords Richard Chamberlain a radical departure from past roles. But as a demonic phony preacher, he is rarely sinister enough to be truly convincing.

The Babe (KTTV Monday at 8 p.m.), a 1992 Arthur Hiller-John Fusco movie, misses the essence of its subject: home-run prodigy George Herman (Babe) Ruth. John Goodman is a good Bambino, but watching this movie, with its careful period decor, sincere direction and sanitized script, is like catching a game where the players are always bunted from base to base.

The mostly engaging 1993 TV movie For the Love of My Child: The Anissa Ayala Story (NBC Monday at 9 p.m.), made with understanding and care, explores the sometimes conflicting feelings that swirl around a family when one of its members is stricken with a potentially deadly disease. Ayala (Teresa DiSpina) is the leukemia-stricken 16-year-old whose parents conceive another child in the hope that it will provide a suitable match in a potentially life-saving bone-marrow transplant.

Tommy (KCOP Friday at 8:30 p.m.), The Who's celebrated rock opera, was treated as a wretched excess in this 1975 Ken Russell extravaganza.

Blue Thunder (KTTV Saturday at 6 p.m.), a chilling 1983 close-up look at police helicopter Big Brother surveillance, is technically impressive, but its basic disregard for human life is its undoing.

The 1986 Extremities (KCOP Saturday at 6 p.m.) is a serious, nonexploitative story of a woman (Farrah Fawcett), twice the victim of a rapist, who turns the tables on her attacker.

Fine Things (NBC Saturday at 8 p.m.) is very slow going, a 1990 TV movie about a department store executive (D.W. Moffett) who falls in love with a woman (Tracy Pollan) only to suffer through her cancer death and then tangle with his stepdaughter's vicious real father.

Admirably offbeat and quite engaging, the 1989 Listen to Me (KABC Saturday at 9 p.m.) focuses on a high-ranking, small-college debating team coached by a hard-driving Roy Scheider, but its finish is disturbing in its implication that what counts is effectiveness of presentation--in this instance, shameless grandstanding--rather than the substance of the argument.

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