And then, tomorrow night on NBC, there's "Fugitive Nights: Danger in the Desert," Mr. Wambaugh's adaptation of his own novel. The scene is Palm Springs, Calif.; the time: the present. The style: laid-back cynical. Breda Burrows (Teri Garr), just retired from the police force and putting a daughter through Stanford University, is opening a detective agency. Needing help on her first case, which involves a wife suspicious about her husband's dealings with a sperm bank, she enlists the help of a police detective, Lynn Cutter (Sam Elliott), an alcoholic marking time until medical retirement and pension.
Fastidiousness is obviously no longer of the moment. Lynn is usually hung over and spends a good deal of time vomiting. His conversation is curiously riddled with goofy allusions to current events: "I've got legs that function like Yugoslavia," or "This phone call has gone on longer than a Lebanese war." Breda is seemingly immune to his attempts at charm. "That's the most insincere smile this town has seen," she says, "since Tammy Faye Bakker moved out."
There is no great chain of being and authority in Mr. Wambaugh's world. Privilege as a concept doesn't sell. Second and third marriages are commonplace. Has-beens sit around bars talking about the golden age of movies ("Maybe my liver remembers," says Lynn). Good cops with bad luck commit suicide. Loneliness and old age loom menacingly. Working with an eager young cop (Thomas Haden Church of "Wings"), Lynn moans, "That kid makes me feel my age; around him, I'm polyester."
Fugitive Nights: Danger in the Desert (1993) TV Movie
Cast: Sam Elliott, Teri Garr, Thomas Haden Church