There's summer scorch you measure with a line of mercury, and then there's the sizzle generated by the season's entertainment. No scientific gauge has been developed for that yet, but Hollywood's counting on Kevin Costner (as Robin Hood) and Patrick Swayze (as a sinewy surf thug) to keep movie audiences at a low boil. Even the lazy days of summer TV offer a surprise, with Stephen King scaring up a series. The season's musical entries include two Guns N' Roses albums, while a beach tote might include a novel about a killer calamary. As for that itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny yellow polka-dot bikini: This year, go for Stars and Stripes.

SUMMER SCREEN

HEAT WAVE!

When police lieutenant Frank S. Drebin (played by a deadpanning Leslie Nielsen) isn't potting around with lost love Jane Spencer (Priscilla Presley) or being honored for having shot his 1,000th drug dealer, he's investigating the disappearance of a government energy expert in The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear. But, as in the 1988 original, the plot is less important than where it will ultimately lead—to another sequel. "The whole film is an outtake," admits Nielsen, adding that he's already anticipating "parts three and four. I'm a laughter addict. I need that fun and dumbness." Director-cowriter David Zucker wants to call the next one Naked Gun 33.3: Just for the Record or Beating a Dead Horse: Naked Gun 3. (June)

The suds bubble up around the antics of the cast and crew of The Sun Also Sets, a fictional daytime drama in Soapdish. This send-up of the genre boasts a comedy ensemble that includes Kevin Kline and (from left) Cathy Moriarty, Sally Field and Whoopi Goldberg. "It's great being the bitch," says Moriarty, who plays vixen Montana Moorehead. "You can walk around and yell at everybody all day long!" And still get laughs. (May)

In Terminator II: Judgment Day, Arnold Schwarzenegger returns as a cyborg (robot) dispatched from a machine-controlled future to wreck the human race. This time there's a good cyborg too, and production-exec Larry Kasanoff won't rule out that Arnie, so mean last time, might be the less hardened hardware. Still, don't expect a tender Terminator. Says Kasanoff: "It's the most violent film ever made about world peace." (July)

This year's Ghost, so Paramount hopes, is The Butcher's Wife, in which Demi Moore again treks to the edge of the supernatural and returns with life-affirming lessons. When Moore, newly wedded to a Greenwich Village butcher, turns out to be clairvoyant, her psychic powers disrupt the practice of a psychiatrist (Jeff Daniels). The two then fall in love. A professional psychic told director Terry (The Golden Girls) Hughes the movie would be a smash. If she's right, she can get work in Hollywood. (September)

The oft-told story holds no surprises, so Kevin Costner's interpretation of the world's most generous bandit had better. The cast of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves boasts a number of potential scene-stealers, including young hunk Christian Slater as renegade Will Scarlett and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio as a ravishing Maid Marian. A breathless love story accompanies the action, according to cowriter and coproducer John Watson, who says, "Marian is a very modern woman in a medieval context." Does that mean more than green pantyhose? (June)

Billy Crystal (center) is a greenhorn who takes a vacation at a Western dude ranch and ends up heading a cattle drive in the comedy City Slickers. Crystal and his cowpoke costars Daniel Stern (left) and Bruno Kirby all had to learn oater basics on location in New Mexico. How was it when Harry met cattle? "Billy got really good at riding along and throwing rope," says Stern (Home Alone's tall, dopey crook). "My approach was more one of gut survival." (June)

Among the crush of movies boasting million-dollar stars, the action-adventure Rocketeer blasts off with little-known Jennifer (The Hot Spot) Connelly and Bill (Dynasty) Campbell. Set in 1938, the film pits a cocky pilot and his fabulous rocket pack against the Nazis who have kidnapped his girl. Just one on-location problem, says Campbell: "I'm terrified of flying."(June)

Bring tissues. One of the gorgeous stars of Dying Young is likely to do just that. You can bet it won't be Julia Roberts. She plays a working-class woman hired to care for rich leukemia patient Campbell Scott; then, naturally, she falls for him. The message, says director Joel (Flatliners) Schumacher, is about "how much we're willing to love somebody." (August)

Backdraft seems to have everything: big stars (Kurt Russell, right, Robert De Niro, Scott Glenn and Donald Sutherland), a hot director (Ron Howard), impressive special effects and a barnburner of a plot: A heroic band of Chicago firemen battle the handiwork of a clever arsonist. (May)

Yes, Patrick Swayze is wearing a swimsuit again. But this time he's the bad guy—the leader of a pack of outlaw surfers infiltrated by FBI agent Keanu Reeves (left). Director Kathryn Bigelow keeps Point Break at a deeper pitch than most cop movies. "Keanu's character gains his soul, but there's a price to pay," she says. "It's kind of Faustian." (July)

ALSO ON THE GRILL...

Summer heat brings simmering love stories like Jungle Fever, Spike Lee's primer on interracial romance with Wesley (New Jack City) Snipes and Annabella (True Love) Sciorra. John Candy is a lonely Chicago cop who falls for mortician's daughter Ally Sheedy in Only the Lonely. For adventure there's Hudson Hawk, with Bruce Willis as a cat burglar caught up in a caper that involves Leonardo da Vinci and Andie MacDowell; Kathleen Turner sizzles as a private investigator in V.I. Warshawski. For tears, try The Doctor, in which controlling heart surgeon William Hurt learns a few lessons when confronted with his own mortality.

SUMMER TUBE

MTM, DREAM AND A STEPHEN KING SERIES

HBO's offbeat adult sitcom Dream On returns with 13 episodes examining the TV-fixated life of Martin Tupper (Brian Benben, lower right), a divorced Manhattan book editor and father whose inner thoughts and emotions manifest themselves as snippets of everything from Leave It to Beaver to Ronald Reagan appearing on The General Electric Theater. The hour-long season opener, directed by executive producer John (Oscar) Landis, features (clockwise from bottom left) Mimi Rogers, David Bowie and Tom Berenger, as well as cameos by Yvonne De Carlo, Eva Gabor and Ricardo Montalban. (HBO, beginning July 7)

No joke: Mary Tyler Moore, best known for situation comedy, takes a stab at stand-up as the host of Just for Laughs '91: The Montreal International Comedy Festival. "Mary will surprise us," promises executive producer Andy Nulman. Look for fresh faces discovered at this so-called Cannes of Comedy, plus such names as Saturday Night Live's Kevin Nealon and Milton Berle. (July 20 on Showtime)

Novelist Stephen King creeps into new territory with CBS's Golden Years, his first TV series. Keith (The Equalizer) Szarabajka plays an elderly janitor whose lab mishap sends him on a twilight-toned adventure. "The show deals with the fountain of youth," says Szarabajka, "but it's King's world—very bittersweet and sour." (To be scheduled)

ALSO ON THE GRILL...

In the series sitcom Sunday Dinner (CBS, June 2) Robert (Big) Loggia plays a widower who falls for a younger woman (Teri Hatcher).... ABC's Vietnam series China Beach may fold its tents at summer's end, but not before airing seven ambitious new episodes beginning June 4, including one dealing with the fall of Saigon.... HBO's Tales from the Crypt scares up the likes of Whoopi Goldberg, Jon Lovitz Michael J. Fox (who directs his own June 15 episode) and Kyle MacLachlan, whose own tales from ABC's cryptic Twin Peaks are laid to season's rest on June 10. RIP, Diane.

SUMMER SONG

ROCK, RAP AND BLUES GIVE SUMMER SOME POP

Forget the July 4 weenie roast; the most anticipated happening of the summer began this week when Guns N' Roses launched a two-year world tour that will touch four continents. Behind the trek and the hoopla are the upcoming Use Your Illusion I and II, a pair of albums containing 36 new songs from Axl Rose (at left, with guitarist Slash) and the boys.

"There's an interest now that's never been there before," crows B.B. King of the blues' new ascendancy. No surprise, then, that King will highlight the Benson & Hedges Blues tour (with Etta James, Johnny Winter, Willie Dixon and John Lee Hooker) during stints in four cities starting next week.

With a new Country Music Association award for Best Female Vocalist, Kathy Mattea (left) will tour all summer and, for three dates in August, team up with traditional country hunk George Strait. Other country cousins who'll be out and about: the Kentucky Headhunters with Carlene Carter and K.T. Oslin with Travis Tritt.

ALSO ON THE GRILL...

Rockers and their marketeers know a recession when they see one; thus, this summer's profusion of multiact package tours designed to profit both artists and audiences. Hoping to deliver more bang for the buck are Anthrax, Megadeth, Slayer and Alice in Chains, who will hit the heavy-metal road under a Clash of the Titans banner. For rap and R&B fans, the Budweiser Superfest will tour 13 cities with a show starring L.L. Cool J, Johnny Gill, Digital Underground and Bell Biv DeVoe. And for the Walkman crowd: new albums from Bonnie Raitt, newcomer Michael McDcrmott, Richard Thompson, rappers Third Bass, popmeisters Crowded House, plus, 26 years after Nat King Cole's death, an LP of his songs by daughter Natalie and a slew of rereleases. Finally, from Rhino Records comes Golden Throats 2, featuring such pop-kitsch classics as the late Sebastian Cabot crooning Dylan's "All I Really Want to Do" and Phyllis Diller rockin' with the Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction."

SUMMER PAGES

CELEB SECRETS, CHINESE ROOTS AND A NEO-JAWS

In Peter Lawford: The Man Who Kept the Secrets, veteran biographer James Spada proves they couldn't be kept forever. Spada reveals tidbits about the actor and presidential brother-in-law (with Sammy Davis Jr. in 1967) and his adulteries (see story, p. 58), his pandering for JFK and his role in obscuring the circumstances of Marilyn Monroe's death. (Bantam, July)

Mia: The Life of Mia Farrow follows the waifish star from her privileged Hollywood childhood to her current status as Woody Allen's leading lady. Authors Edward Z. Epstein and Joe Morella have pieced together only one chapter on life with Allen (with Farrow and their adopted daughter, Dylan, in 1985). But they do detail the 1968 Sinatra-Farrow divorce as well as Farrow's years with Andre Previn. Unlike many actresses, says Epstein of this mother of nine, "she hasn't had to go to Betty Ford, and she's not an insane person." (Delacorte, July)

The Kitchen Cod's Wife, Amy Tan's follow-up to her acclaimed debut, The Joy Luck Club, is a similar tale of strife between a Chinese-American mother and her oh-so-assimilated daughter. "I hope people won't see it simply as exotica," says Tan, who spent two weeks with relatives in China for research. "It's a very American story as well." (Putnam, June)

ALSO ON THE GRILL...

Killer Thrillers: Jaws author Peter Benchley conjures up a 90-foot squid in Beast this July (Random House). Tom Clancy adds up The Sum of All Fears in August (Putnam).... Passion Shows: Therapist Susan Forward diagnoses Obsessive Love (Bantam, June), while novelist Jacqueline Briskin looks at The Other Side of Love (Delacorte, May).... Also, pack your beach bag with Norman Mailer's novel Harlot's Ghost (Random House, August) and works by Elmore Leonard, Andrew Greeley, Peter Matthiessen and Robert Fulghum.

SUMMER ETC

THE FLAG DRESSES UP AND THE BURGER SLIMS DOWN

Summer Food. It's delightful, it's delovely, it's de-fast food. McDonald's McLean Deluxe has only 320 calories and 9 percent fat. Where's the beach?

Summer Sport. Chubby-wheeled mountain bikes are versatile enough to handle both dirt roads and city streets—and can even seat freewheeling superstars like Madonna.

Summer Fun. It takes two to tequila—at least if you want to do shots of the stuff the "body-lick" way, as practiced in some of the nation's youthful bars and clubs. 1) Find a willing partner. 2) Pour salt on his or her arm, neck, leg, etc. 3) Lick off the salt. 4) Kiss your partner—removing a lime wedge from his or her mouth. 5) Bite the lime. 6) Drink. 7) Don't hate yourself in the morning.

Summer Style. Stars and Stripes (and fads) forever! As the troops come home, Old Glory is enjoying a big wave on jackets, skirts (such as the one worn by Brooke "No Flagpole She" Shields), ties, boxer shorts and swimsuits.