Burr's last Perry Mason vs. 'Barbarians'


The options tonight aren't many, but they're interesting.

* "Barbarians at the Gate" (8-10 p.m., WBFF-Channel 45) -- James Garner is one of the two main reasons this HBO telemovie works. It's a docudrama -- actually, more of a docucomedy -- about a real-life hostile corporate takeover, and Mr. Garner's winning, easygoing acting has a lot to do with it.

So does Larry Gelbart's script, which, except for some almost unavoidably clunky exposition, speeds along cleverly and crisply. It's an insider's view of the RJR Nabisco buyout, with Mr. Garner as CEO F. Ross Johnson.

And if there's ever a movie made of what Barry Diller is attempting to do right now, I hope Mr. Gelbart gets the call to write the script. Fox.

* "Perry Mason: The Case of the Killer Kiss" (9-11 p.m., WMAR-Channel 2) -- This is the final "Perry Mason" TV movie starring Raymond Burr, to whom it is dedicated. Soap opera fans will enjoy it on a different level -- it features such daytime stars as Linda Dano of "Another World," Arleen Sorkin of "Days of Our Lives" and Genie Francis of "General Hospital," all playing soap-opera producers, fans and stars (in this case, in that exact order).

But fans of Burr who appreciate how sick the man was at the time of filming may want to watch to see how every one of his

scenes has him either sitting down, leaning on a table or person for support, or, in one shot-from-behind courtroom exit scene, using a body double.

It's also obvious, from the rough line readings, most scenes involving Burr were shot with as few retakes as possible, to minimize stress on the ailing actor. NBC.

* "One on One: Classic Television Interviews" (9:30-11 p.m., WBAL-Channel 11) -- A little too serious, too heavy on "60 Minutes," and lacking both examples and context in certain areas, this is nonetheless a VCR alert for evoking memories of memorable TV interviews. CBS.


* "Avonlea" (8-9 p.m., DIS) -- Diana Rigg guest-stars in this first-run episode.

* "Big Al" (10:40-11:10 p.m., SHO) -- This quick comedy-drama, based on Brian Goluboff's one-act play, has David Packer and Willie Garson repeating their stage roles as would-be screenwriters -- one of whom is obsessed to the brink of insanity with the works of, and the chance to work with, Al Pacino.

Some exchanges are too arch or artificial, but others are raw and gripping, and the furious brainstorming session is a perfect parody of formulaic screenwriting.

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