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FOCUS ON FANTASY AND NIGHTMARES

Times Staff Writer

Childhood fantasies and childhood nightmares are the subject of commendable TV movies that are being shown back-to-back Sunday night--one on ABC, the other on CBS.

“Time Flyer,” airing at 7 p.m. on Channels 7, 3, 10 and 42, is the second installment of ABC’s “The Disney Sunday Movie,” and it is far more worthy of the Disney moniker than was the premiere, “Help Wanted: Kids,” in terms of being pleasurable family entertainment.

Originally shown on Disney’s pay TV channel under the title “The Blue Yonder,” “Time Flyer” concerns an 11-year-old boy (Huckleberry Fox) who has his head in the clouds, dreaming of flying and of his grandfather, who was killed trying to fly solo across the Atlantic in 1927.

When his friend and aviation mentor (Art Carney) builds a time machine, the boy leaps at the opportunity to travel back to meet his grandfather (Peter Coyote) in hopes of persuading him not to make his fateful flight.

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The movie lacks the big-budget pizazz and pacing of “Back to the Future,” but writer-director Mark Rosman effectively extracts charm from the simplicity, focusing less on the novelty of whether changing the past would alter the present than on the warm relationship that develops between grandfather and grandson. His interest is the engaging fantasy of meeting long-dead relatives who would bring our heritage to life.

Wholesome fantasy is replaced by painful reality in “Child’s Cry,” the CBS movie Sunday at 9 p.m. (Channels 2 and 8). The story by Jonathan B. Rintels Jr. and Norman Strum cleverly employs the framework of a courtroom mystery, but not for the typical murder story. They’re dealing instead with child abuse.

Lindsay Wagner stars as a social worker who is assigned to the case of a withdrawn 6-year-old boy (poignantly played by Taliesin Jaffe) who has been found asleep at the zoo. She returns him to his father (Peter Coyote again) but continues working to decipher the riddle of the boy’s behavior. Once she suspects abuse, there’s still the matter of determining who committed the crime.

Then the movie gets to what it really wants to deal with: Once identified, how is the abuser brought to justice? The answer--easy to say but difficult to implement and fraught with peril--is that the boy must testify in court, confronting his assailant, reliving the trauma and responding to potentially harsh cross-examination. Director Gilbert Cates skillfully elucidates the child’s fragile position in these proceedings.

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What’s best about “Child’s Cry” is that Cates, who also produced the film, doesn’t let its obvious social concerns overshadow the drama. There is a good, emotional story here first, and it happens secondly to address a problem made all the more pertinent by recent developments in the McMartin Pre-School child abuse case, which have caused many parents to question the wisdom of allowing their abused children to take the witness stand.

The two movies will face plenty of competition Sunday night. Also scheduled are “Under Siege,” a three-hour movie about terrorists from the Middle East attacking the United States (8-11 p.m., Channels 4, 36 and 39), and “Harem,” a two-part potboiler set in turn-of-the-century Turkey (9-11 p.m., Channels 7, 3, 10 and 42; see separate review).

Here are other weekend programs.

TODAY: Eight young people who’ve had plastic surgery discuss their experiences on “Teen Talk,” 8 a.m. (9). . . .

Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.) will be interviewed in a special broadcast at 6:30 p.m. on KOCE Channel 50. . . .

“The Love Boat” sets sail for Egypt with Jean Stapleton, Valerie Harper, Chad Everett, Catherine Oxenberg and John Astin, 9 p.m. (7) (3) (10) (42). . . .

Ron Reagan, son of President Reagan, hosts “Saturday Night Live,” with music by the Nelsons, a band featuring the sons of the late Rick Nelson, Matthew and Gunnar Nelson, 11:30 p.m. (4) (36) (39). . . .

“Duck Soup,” the Marx Brothers movie that plays a prominent role in Woody Allen’s new movie, “Hannah and Her Sisters,” can be seen by night owls at 3 a.m. (5).

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SUNDAY: Lt. Gov. Leo McCarthy will be the guest on “Channel 4 News Conference,” 8:30 a.m. (4). . . .

Interior Secretary Don Hodel will discuss offshore oil drilling on “Newsmakers,” 9:30 a.m. (2). . . .

President Ferdinand Marcos of the Phillipines will be interviewed both on “Meet the Press,” 9:30 a.m. (4) (36) (39), and “This Week With David Brinkley,” 11:30 a.m. (7) (3) (10) (42). . . .

“Face the Nation” looks at the Reagan Administration’s agenda with Atty. Gen. Edwin Meese and others, 9:30 a.m. (8) and 5 p.m. (2). . . .

“60 Minutes” looks at conditions in Iran, profiles composer Quincy Jones and reports on two defense attorneys whose clients include reputed drug dealers and racketeers, 7 p.m. (2) (8). . . .

Andie MacDowell hosts “Hollywood Valentines,” a special featuring the Valentine’s Day wishes of celebrities such as Dick Clark, Tina Turner, Chevy Chase and Kathleen Turner, 8 p.m. (9). . . .

The life of 18th-Century Scottish author James Boswell is dramatized in the three-part “Boswell’s London Journal,” 10 p.m. (24), 11 p.m. (50).


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