USA (Wed., Jane 3, 9 P.M. ET)
John (The Human Factor) Mahoney and Scott (Family Ties) Valentine play father and son small-town Georgia lawyers with a relationship that really gets strained when they begin competing in both the courtroom and the bedroom. Both covet Eve (The Powers That Be) Gordon, the wife of a murder suspect Valentine is prosecuting and Mahoney is defending.
The movie tries to kindle a tale of lust and murder into a smoldering thriller. But it succeeds only in creating a smudge-pot melodrama, crammed with silly Southern accents, ludicrous courtroom scenes and terrible acting, particularly by Valentine, who seems to think that emoting means imitating Alan Thicke with a migraine.
MTV (Wed., June 3, 10 P.M. ET)
In this installment of MTV's acoustic performance series, the simpler Simon stays, the sweeter the sound. The highlights are the old folkie numbers like "Homeward Bound" and "Something So Right." Less satisfying are the ambitious songs from Simon's current international phase, subtropical tunes like "Born at the Right Time" and "Graceland."
HBO (Thurs., June 4, 9 P.M. ET)
Like other out-of-steam horror film series (Omen IV, Psycho IV), this sequel bypasses theaters to come straight to TV. The stars should feel comfortable in their roles as late-inning replacements. Robert Wrightman, who succeeded Richard Thomas as John-Bo) for the last two seasons of The Waltons, takes Terry O'Quinn's place as the monster who likes to nestle into the bosom of a young widow's family and then hack his way out. Playing Wright-man's unsuspecting bride is Priscilla Barnes, the post-Suzanne Somers blonde on Three's Company. Brace yourself for long, slow sections punctuated by gruesome violence.
TNT (Tues., June 9, 8 P.M. ET)
In an engaging modem western based on a Thomas McGuane novel, William (Passed Away) Petersen stars as a blocked painter who returns to work the family ranch in Montana. The intense Petersen seems like an inspired choice to play a McGuane hero, which requires negotiating tricky terrain between the grizzled and the gleeful. But Petersen never nails down the maverick McGuane spirit, merely coming across as frustrated and smart-alecky.
There are some marvelous performances, including Fred Dalton Thompson as a ranch foreman and Buck Henry as Petersen's crackpot uncle. Lovely photography, sharp dialogue (John Miglis wrote the script) and the tempestuous relationships Petersen maintains with his old flame (Lolita Davidovich) and his new one (Rachel Ticotin) make this movie a standout. Jack Balance, Lois Smith and Jeff Kober costar.
If you find the summer TV doldrums tedious, imagine what they do to your friendly neighborhood TV critic. Do you actually think we enjoy reviewing three-part PBS series on ethnic clog dancing or A&E nature documentaries on the smaller mammals of Borneo? Do you suppose we relish sifting through vintage rerun listings to find a 1971 episode of Love, American Style featuring Richard Benjamin? Well, do you? This week is better than most because on Saturday (June 6) my two favorite cable comedy series introduce fresh episodes. Mystery Science Theater 3000 starts its fourth season on Comedy Central (10 A.M. and 7 P.M. ET) as our lost-in-space film commentators Joel, Tom Servo and Crow sic their toothy sarcasm on Marooned, an execrable 1969 astronaut movie starring Gene Hackman, Gregory Peek, Richard Crenna and James Franciscus. It's the first time, as far as I know, that Joel and the guys have ever gone after an Oscar winner (the movie won for special effects). HBO's Dream On (10:30 P.M. ET) kicks off 20 new episodes with a one-hour special in which Martin (Brian Benben) gets branded a "male bimbo" when he has a scandalous affair with a politician's wife. Look for cameos from three notoriously strange bedfellows: Gennifer Flowers, Rita Jenrette and Jessica Hahn.