It's a big week for made-for-TV movies about sex, greed, terror, all the usual stuff. But one of the movies, Silence of the Heart, about a teenager's suicide, is the product of two big and beneficial trends on the tube: movies made to illuminate serious, sad issues, and movies starring actors willing to make themselves look like hell for their roles. Consider Farrah Fawcett, battered in The Burning Bed, Jane Fonda, poor and pudgy in The Dollmaker and James Garner, sick enough to die in Heartsounds. Now Mariette Hartley and Howard Hesseman let themselves look like leftover death as they grieve for their son in Silence. Looking awful is nothing new in movies, but it is new on TV. As for issues: The Burning Bed tried to teach us about wife abuse, Adam about missing children, Something About Amelia about incest, Heartsounds about doctors with sterile souls. These movies, educating us about the problems of the day, fill a need that used to be taken care of by sitcoms: Norman Lear's All in the Family, Maude, One Day at a Time, et al. It's a necessary job and one that fits well on TV, for who wants to pay $5 to go to a theater and see movies on these subjects? On TV, we'll watch them, and in big numbers: The Burning Bed was the fifth highest rated TV movie ever. There is danger in such ratings, if TV tries too hard for tears. But what we have so far is a series of fine, responsible movies that have their place on the airwaves alongside simple entertainment, the novocaine for the brain that dominates much of the schedule this week.

NBC (Friday, Oct. 26, 8 p.m. ET)

Well worth waiting for: V the miniseries and Vine sequel become Vthe series. And it's still great fun. One year after the alien lizards from space were banished from earth, creepy, crawly space bitch Jane Badler (as the diabolical Diana) is brought to trial, then kidnapped; the half-human, half-lizard "space child" Elizabeth (call her Liz for short) suffers galactic acne and begins a yucky metamorphosis; one of the resistance fighters turns profiteer with a restaurant and a line of Space Busters shoes; rebel leaders Faye Grant and Marc Singer continue cooing. The hour premiere is filled with plot and action and humor: An earthling tells Diana that she is "guilty of crimes against humanity, genocide and, oh yes, cannibalism." And she replies, "That's a matter of taste." For pure enjoyment, there's nothing better than V.

ABC (Sunday, Oct. 28, 9 p.m. ET)

When you bring the TV movie down to its lowest common denominator, you're really low, below sea level, which is just where you find Wet Gold, Brooke Shields' first video flick (also starring Burgess Meredith). Princeton sophomore Brooke is still not a great actress, so you know you're in trouble when she tries rescuing the script. The tale, a sodden Treasure of the Sierra Madre about sunken gold, tries to combine the basic elements in any TV movie—sex, violence, greed, terror and suspense—but only succeeds in drowning in silly lines. When Brooke's good-guy boyfriend turns evil with greed, she actually says, "Look what's happening to us!" She simpers, "I don't know who I can trust anymore." That's "whom," Brooke.

NBC (Sunday, Oct. 28, 9 p.m. ET)

Better than novocaine for the brain, what we have here is laughing gas: Heather (T.J. Hooker) Locklear is terrorized by psycho wimp Terence (St. Elsewhere) Knox. He has such a crush on her that he takes to crushing buildings, blowing them up to prove his love. "Is there something about me?" Heather asks. No, Heather, you're only an excuse to use neat footage of four buildings being blasted. Dynamite, however, does not a drama make.

NBC (Monday, Oct. 29, 9 p.m. ET)

Valerie (One Day at a Time) Bertinelli plays a young nun in this true tale, a modern, watered-down variation on The Nun's Story, the richly detailed 1959 movie starring Audrey Hepburn. In both, the nuns are beautiful, dedicated and faithful but also troubled; they end up leaving their convents. Vows, set in the '60s around Vatican II and Vietnam, is an emotional story and Bertinelli is charming in it. Her relationship with David (St. Elsewhere) Morse as Father Tim gives the film depth; they make a lovely couple that can never be. But Vows is made up more of chronology than characterization: Bertinelli's crisis of faith and vocation are sloughed off too easily. Hepburn's movie looks less dated than this new one.

CBS (Tuesday, Oct. 30, 9 p.m. ET)

Chad Lowe (Rob's brother) kills himself and leaves no note, only a few clues to be picked up by his sister, Dana (Shoot the Moon) Hill, and by his parents, Mariette (Goodnight, Beantown) Hartley and Howard (WKRF) Hesseman: He flubbed his SATs; he quit work without telling anyone; he was obsessed with a girl who all but ignored him; he read too much Sylvia Plath. It may sound trivial, but it killed him. There are similarities in Silence to Ordinary People, but the people here are more ordinary, more real; you can feel their pain. Silence is a movie with a message: Teenagers make about 400,000 attempts at suicide each year; their pleas for help often are too quiet to hear. Message movies such as this can't get their points across without fine scripts and class acting. Hartley pours herself into the part (see page 65); Hill is always a pro; Hesseman puts in a credible performance in a non-comic role; Elizabeth Berridge and Charlie Sheen as Lowe's best friends are talented discoveries. Silence lacks subtlety in places, particularly at the ending, but it is eloquent enough to be effective.

Arts (Tuesday, Oct. 30, 9 p.m. ET)

The English can be a funny lot in their subtle ways. This play, produced for the BBC, is based on the true story of an actress, Coral Browne, who played Hamlet in Moscow in 1958 and ran into one of England's most notorious spies, Guy Burgess. Browne plays herself and Alan Bates is Burgess, a lonely dandy who wants nothing of Browne but a few moments' company and a new wardrobe from London. "Clothes," he explains, "have never been the comrades' strong point." Australian Browne gives him pity but no sympathy for his cause, which he seems to have forgotten. "If this is communism," she says, "I don't like it because it's dull. And some people think Australia is dull." This is a play about secrets and about discretion, the soul of civilization. It is a small delight.

>A WITH INTENT TO KILL CBS (Wednesday, Oct. 24, 9 p.m. ET)

And one more made-for-TV movie about a Texas murder, starring Karl Maiden, Paul Sorvino and William Devane.

THE JERK ABC (Thursday, Oct. 25, 8 p.m. ET)

Steve Martin plays a guy who's a bit too wild and crazy, but he has some hilarious moments.

GARFIELD IN THE ROUGH CBS (Friday, Oct. 26, 8 p.m. ET)

The J.R. of the feline world stars in a special.


The Peanuts' Halloween tradition continues.

A LINCOLN CENTER SPECIAL PBS (Friday, Oct. 26, 9 p.m. ET)

A celebration of Lincoln Center's 25th anniversary.