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Prime-Time Flicks

August 11, 1996|Kevin Thomas

The Jacksons: An American Dream (ABC Sunday at 8 p.m., part 2 Monday at 8 p.m.) is that rare television biography that sings, though its tune is frequently downbeat. It's a rocking, pulsating, gyrating, bewitching five hours that resonate the angry rhythms behind the joyous music of a dysfunctional family.

However much they paid Julia Roberts to do Dying Young (CBS Sunday at 9 p.m.) it wasn't enough. No one else could have rescued this insubstantial 1991 knockoff of "Love Story" but Roberts, with very fine help from Campbell Scott, makes it watchable. He plays a wealthy young man stricken with leukemia, she a girl from the wrong side of the tracks who becomes his nurse-companion.

The Beans of Egypt, Maine (KCET Sunday at 9 p.m.) is full of family and place. Adapted from Carolyn Chute's 1984 debut novel, the 1994 film, like the book, has an almost messianic mission: It wants to give poor rural white people their due after generations of caricature. However, it doesn't really succeed in vaulting cartoonishness, though a few of the performers score personal triumphs, most notably Martha Plimpton and Kelly Lynch.

There are misfires but also some funny stuff and a refreshing taste of self-mockery in Keenen Ivory Wayans' I'm Gonna Git You Sucka (KTLA Thursday at 8 p.m.), a 1988 satire of the early '70s blaxploitation action movies, with their natty, super-masculine heroes and flamboyant pimps.

The Grifters (KCOP Saturday at 8 p.m.), from Jim Thompson's novel, is a grimy, on-the-edge world of racetrack crooks and petty swindlers, sliced open with the cool panache of a killer's scalpel. Donald Westlake adapts expertly; director Stephen Frears gives it the amoral, creamily lit texture of a Restoration sex comedy.

On the Saturday 11:30 p.m. late shows--two classics: The Third Man (KCET Saturday at 11:30 p.m.) and Psycho (KTLA Saturday 11:30 p.m.).

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