The least we expect from televison is often more than we get. Surely one would be a matter of course for a moneymaker operation like Washington's Channel 5 (WTTG), part of the lucrative though hardly innovative Metromedia station group.

The station contributes little programming of its own, but it does have a healthy stock of old movies. And yet through carelessness or malevolence, even these telecasts are turned into torture for viewers who brave them.

On Saturday night, Judy Garland and Gene Kelly were singing the "Be A Clown" finale to a musical called "The Pirate." The sang, "Be a clown, be a clown, be a-" and suddenly were abruptly cut off and replaced by a commercial. The end of the film was never shown. On Sunday, the station interrupted Spencer Tracy as he sang "Little Fish" to Freddie Bartholomew in the classic "Captains Courageous" and nearly ruined that picture, too.

These incidents are hardly rare; they are commonplace at the station, where the decision on when to interrupt a film is made by a computer. The kindest thing to be said of such irresponsible practices is the they indicate indifferences; in fact, they represent contempt for the viewers by a management that has made no apparent attempt to correct them. As long as the commercials get on and off, the money rolls in.