``The Love She Sought,'' NBC TV movie, 8 p.m., Channel 5; ``The Bride in Black,'' ABC TV movie, 9 p.m., Channel 4; ``Back to Hannibal: Return of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn,'' 7 p.m., Disney Channel/cable.
A Sunday night movie that isn't about murder? Can it be? Yes, it can - and it's a charmer, starring that always-welcome Angela Lansbury in NBC's ``The Love She Sought,'' at 8 p.m. Sunday on KING-TV.
While Angela Lansbury pretty much plays Angela Lansbury today, her persona of the caring, down-to-earth, no-nonsense elderly woman with a sense of humor is an appealing one, as the consistently solid ratings for CBS' ``Murder, She Wrote'' and the good ratings for last season's ``The Shell Seekers'' on ABC have proven.
``The Love She Sought'' should do equally well, for Lansbury gets able support from first-class director Joseph Sargent, writers Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman (``An Early Frost'') and fine dramatic support from Robert Prosky, Denholm Elliott and Cynthia Nixon.
Based on a novel by John Hassler, ``The Love She Sought'' is about Agatha McGee, one of that fast-dying (if not already disappeared) breed of the dedicated spinster teacher, devoted to her children. The setting is a Catholic school in a small Minnesota town and when we first meet Agatha, we immediately recognize her abilities as a teacher and we also learn she doesn't particularly hold with the new-fangled ways of a new Bishop (Prosky), who wants his flock to call him by his first name and plays trombone in the local Dixieland band. (There is, in fact, a delightfully funny scene where Agatha makes confession to none other than the Bishop, as she explains that the cause of her sin of anger is the Bishop himself!)
We also learn Agatha has maintained a lengthy correspondence with a teacher in Ireland whom she wrote to after reading a letter he had written to the press complaining about the lack of tradition in the church today.
When Agatha retires from teaching, she decides to take a trip to Ireland to meet the man of whom she has become more than a little fond, through their letters, but when they do meet the results are disastrous (although quick-witted viewers will have figured out the complications before they happen).
There is also a subplot about a young, unmarried mother, played by Cynthia Nixon, whom Agatha befriends.
``The Love She Sought'' may not be long on plot but it is long on characterization, on warmth, on the quirky personalities of Agatha, the Bishop and the Irish teacher, the latter played with his customary invention by Denholm Elliott. Prosky is particularly good as a bishop trying to cope with a traditional religion in a modern world.
Lansbury, of course, is as believable and charming as ever. Her performance here, as in nearly everything she's ever done, is convincing proof that we all need an Angela Lansbury in our lives - as teacher, mother, aunt, sister, friend or lover. She can fulfill any of them to perfection.
From the sublime to the ridiculous: ABC's ``The Bride in Black,'' at 9 Sunday night on KOMO-TV.
Poor Susan Lucci! Not only does she never win an Emmy for ``All My Children,'' season after season, but she has the back luck to get stuck in prime-time TV movies like this.
This is a variation on the plot of the mystery man who suddenly appears and sweeps an innocent young girl off her feet and into marriage - only to turn out to be someone entirely different from what he was originally thought to be.
Susan plays a young woman who works in an Italian meat market in Brooklyn when in waltzes David Soul who immediately wants to marry her. In no time at all, they're leaving the church on their wedding day when a car whizzes by the church, shooting Soul. (It's almost a relief - he's terrible as a supposedly brilliant and successful artist.)
Susan sets out to find out who would want to kill her new husband - and discovers a great many unsavory things about his past, none of which are in the least believable or interesting.
The plot is so ludicrous - it will not be convincing even to anyone who knows nothing about art and laughable to anyone who does - and Lucci never gets to play two of her dramatic aces - her sense of high style and her feeling for comedy. ``The Bride in Black'' is a bummer from start to finish.
``Back to Hannibal,'' which premieres at 7 p.m. Sunday on cable's Disney Channel (with repeats Friday and Oct. 29, Nov. 3, 8, 13, 17, 25 and 30 and Dec. 8 and 13), is an idea that sounds better on paper than it plays on the screen.
Even Mark Twain admitted it would be interesting to pick up the lives of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn when they grew up - but Roy Johansen's script is more interested in the murder mystery that is the movie's plot device than in truly exploring the characters of Tom and Huck.
Tom has become a Chicago lawyer; Huck has become a newspaper reporter in St. Louis - and they return to Hannibal when Jim Watson is charged with a murder he didn't commit. As played by Raphael Sbarge and Mitchell Anderson, Tom and Huck don't seem much different from the boys who palled around in Hannibal earlier in the 19th century. Only Becky Thatcher, as played by Megan Follows, seems to have grown up and developed anything resembling a character.
Paul Winfield plays Jim Watson and Ned Beatty brings a little welcome humor as that blustery conman, The Duke of Bridgewater, but, on the whole, as directed by Paul Krasny, ``Back to Hannibal'' is a pretty lifeless attempt at building on Twain's characters. You can bet Twain would have done a far better job than anyone involved here did.