This week we say goodbye to St. Elsewhere and to the very last of the networks' '87-'88 season. Kinda brings tears to a couch potato's eyes, doesn't it?

NBC (Wed., May 25, 10 p.m. ET)


TV series—the best ones—almost take on a life of their own. But that also means, sadly, that they have to die. So here lies St. Elsewhere, dead at the age of 137 hours. It is an honorable and entertaining end. The only complaint I ever had with this darling of the high-demographic set was that it developed a disease common in the creative community: taking-itself-too-damned-seriouslyitis. A season or so ago I did get tired of the preaching and the whining. But hallelujah, there's none of that here. At the start of this final episode, we see Howie Mandel treating a fat female opera singer so, at the end, when it's all over, he can say...Well, I won't ruin even that punch line. But that silly gag proves that St. Elsewhere will go out as it came in: with tongue either in cheek or sticking straight out. This last show has an amputee running around loose; gags about specimen bottles; just enough (but not too much) poignant life-and-death drama; and one more tribute to TV—an autopsy on "patient 4077, Blake, Henry," who died in a chopper crash. St. Elsewhere throws itself a nice wake. May it R.I.R. (Rest In Reruns).

HBO (Sat., May 28, 8 p.m. ET)


The movie sounds hot; its score was written by Jan (Miami Vice) Hammer. It looks hot; its scenes of Florida are almost as steamy as its stars, Andy (The Untouchables) Garcia and Ellen (The Big Easy) Barkin. It feels hot. So too bad it makes no sense at all. Garcia plays Clinton, a bird smuggler whose brother gets bumped off by bad guys somehow affiliated with the contras, American generals and high-priced prostitutes. Barkin plays Nadine, who happens to be around when the brother is killed and happens to be one of those prostitutes but who wants to be a singer or own a lake in Canada, I'm not sure which. So Garcia and Barkin go driving off with his dog and her baby, falling in love while they look for villains. But I don't know why they keep hauling a piano around. Clinton and Nadine's confusing nonstory would have been easier to swallow—or ignore—if only the movie's sexy, sexy costars had been allowed to stop chasing wild geese long enough to chase each other and generate some heat of their own.

NBC (Sun., May 29, 9 p.m. ET)


It's not surprising that NBC would revive the old GE Theater. General Electric now owns NBC. No, what is newsworthy is that GE apparently wants to be more than a corporate parent. GE wants to be the whole country's parent, at once a big, strong daddy and a sweet, tender mommy who can kiss and cure any little boo-boo—even when that boo-boo is the Vietnam War. Such is the level of insulting and simplistic condescension to which we are subjected by To Heal a Nation. The movie is based on Jan Scruggs's efforts to build a memorial to soldiers killed in Vietnam (see story, page 85). But the saga has been sanitized for our protection, purged of the blood, sweat and bile the war brought out. This movie resembles nothing in real life. Eric (Star 80) Roberts plays Scruggs in what looks, at first, like Mr. Rambo Goes to Washington. He's a tough guy who growls at government bureaucrats, but inside he's warm and decent. He cares, dammit. Next, as Scruggs teams up with vets, pols and real people, the movie takes on the appearance of an old Mickey Rooney feature—"Hey, kids, let's build a memorial!" Or as Roberts grunts: "Remember, guys, this is the homecoming we promised the vets!" Soon enough, Washington starts to resemble Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, with enemies embracing and all our old war wounds healed. And in the end the movie looks like nothing more than a TV station's late-night sign-off, with all the sentiment but none of the lyricism of "The Star-Spangled Banner." "I really opposed the war, bitterly," a child of the '60s says. Roberts looks up with all the sincerity of Rambo or Rogers or Rooney and replies: "Well, it's way too late for either of us to argue about it now, isn't it?" Wrong. The arguments are far from over. But I don't mean to jump start those battles now or to attack Scruggs and his memorial. No, I mean only to attack this movie. For these are stone cold statues, not human beings, and the words they speak do not come from a screenwriter but from a speech writer. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial itself tells its story more powerfully and eloquently than this movie dares to.

PBS (Tues., May 31, 10 p.m. ET)


Forget those disease-of-the-week movies that try to inform but most times only exploit. This amazing documentary takes real people and shows us the truth about a disease. We meet four people who suffer mood swings. We witness the highs of their manic periods and the lows of their depression—and then we see normalcy return with treatment. Four Lives is not only a public service to the millions of manic-depressives in America—one of whom, actress Patty Duke, introduces the show. It is also a superb piece of candid, informative and dramatic filmmaking.

ABC (Tues., May 31, 10 p.m. ET)

Journey back a few decades with Mz. Liza to a time when Broadway, the street, didn't stink (but some plays in the neighborhood did). It was an innocent, simple and often twinkie time in showbiz. Now Minnelli re-creates the feel of that era—and all the good and bad that comes with it—in an energetic salute to the stage. She stars in three playlets, all titled Sam Found Out. Lanford (Burn This) Wilson wrote her a teensy drama, with Liza as a hooker and Ryan O'Neal as her pimp. The dialogue follows the vogue of dramaturgy—it's a bit turgid and hard to follow (playwrights can get away with that because their audiences are held captive in tiny, expensive seats and don't have remote controls). The skit has its clever moments—but its predictable ending isn't one of them. Next there's a little romance by Terrence (The Rink) McNally and Wendy (Isn't It Romantic) Wasserstein, with Lou Gossett Jr. as a foreign prince who falls in love with Liza as a down-on-her-luck hoofer. Sweet but silly. Then comes a John Kander and Fred Ebb (Cabaret) musical about Liza and John Rubenstein and the dog that's keeping them apart. It has melodies you can hum—but then, so do gum commercials. I give Liza an A for ambition, but her show gets: B-

>A ROYAL GALA Robin Williams, Elton John, Phil Collins, Belinda Carlisle and James Taylor perform for Prince Charles, Princess Di and charity; too late for review. (ABC, Wed., May 25, 9:30 p.m. ET)

ALL THAT BACH A high-class hoot: Musicians celebrate Bach on the organ, in symphonies, with tap-dancing percussionists and even on steel drums. (PBS, Fri., May 27, 9 p.m. ET)

A SALUTE TO JACK LEMMON The 16th American Film Institute Life Achievement Award is a great excuse for watching great clips from Mister Hoberts, The Apartment, The Odd Couple, Some Like It Hot, The China Syndrome and Days of Wine and Roses. (CBS, Mon., May 30, 10 p.m. ET)