The Papuan people and their gorgeous birds of paradise

The bond between birds of paradise and the people of the Papuan forests on the island of New Guinea is the subject of an extraordinary sociological document masquerading as a simple wildlife film.

Voices in the Forest (PBS, Sunday, Dec. 18, 8-9 p.m., check local listings)m airs as part of WNET/NY's superb ''Nature'' series. Produced by the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Papua New Guinea Wildlife Division and narrated by David Attenborough, ''Voices'' focuses on the gorgeously colored birds of paradise and the native populations that live among them, worship them, integrate them into their religious rites, and eventually kill them and use their feathers in wigs and headdresses for cult ceremonies.

The film delves into the daily lives of both the birds and the natives. The mating dance of the bird of paradise, together with its weird mating call, is a sight and sound never to be forgotten. Imagine the sound of a revving Rolls-Royce combined with the rush of Niagara Falls and the groan of a wounded ape, and you will get an idea of the sound.

''Voices in the Forest'' makes a stab at a brief socioeconomic history of New Guinea as well. The movement from an economy based on sales of bird plumes for women's hats to one based on gold and coffee makes very interesting subject matter.

But, one thing I guarantee: What you will remember most about this hour-long film is that unforgettable mating call. Scrooge at Christmas

''Life is a streetcar, get on it'' seems to be the major message of an anti-Scrooge CBS Christmas offering. Although set in Tennessee Williams's New Orleans, the streetcar is not named ''Desire.'' ''Farce'' would be more like it.

Hobson's Choice (CBS, Wednesday, Dec. 21, 9-11 p.m.m) is a charmingly naive and slightly heavy-handed, vaguely feminist, farcical adaptation of the near-classic British play of the same name, which was filmed as a movie with Charles Laughton in 1954 and used as the basis for a Broadway musical titled ''Walking Happy'' in 1966.

It is a thin work at best, and this slight reincarnation by Burt Prelutsky is lucky to be deftly directed by Gilbert Cates and acted with a kind of saving-graceless charm by Richard Thomas, Sharon Gless, and Jack Warden. Lillian Gish makes a guest appearance as a rich old lady who is willing to do a good deed, as long as it doesn't cost any money.

The story concerns a chic shoe-shop owner's daughter who marries the shoemaker, educates him, and turns him into a gentleman, everything her sotted father is not . . . until . . . well, that's the story, isn't it?

''Hobson'' mixes a bit of ''Cinderella,'' with a lot of ''A Christmas Carol'' and comes up with its own brand of capitalistic ''Bah, humbug.''

''Hobson's Choice'' is fine Christmas change of pace for those who have become bored with animated good cheer. Scrooge-like Jack Warden says with disdain, ''What's Christmas without booze?''

Well, ''Hobson's Choice'' has the answer: pure and simple eggnog.

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