Adapted from a Ross Macdonald novel, "Criminal Behavior" is a breezy whodunit , as well as a terrific vehicle for Farrah Fawcett. The convoluted plot is rather formulaic, but it contains enough twists and eccentric characters to keep things interesting.

Adapted from a Ross Macdonald novel, “Criminal Behavior” is a breezy whodunit , as well as a terrific vehicle for Farrah Fawcett. The convoluted plot is rather formulaic, but it contains enough twists and eccentric characters to keep things interesting.

Fawcett plays a feisty, hard-nosed public defender named Jessie Lee Stubbs whose favorite off-duty hobby is hitting a punching bag.

Her dedication extends to snagging a watch from a man who refuses to pay child support.

Not surprisingly, Fawcett lets her personal life take a back seat to her work.

The irony, which is laid on too heavily, is that Fawcett comes from a long line of criminals. She visits her father in prison and catches her mother profiting from prostitution.

To get a client out of jail, Fawcett begins a search for an elusive actor named Larry Gaines. As she gets closer to finding him, the body count begins to mount.

Wherever Fawcett goes in her snappy convertible, she is shadowed by a police detective with the unusual name of Pike Grenada (A Martinez). She resists his advances at first, but, predictably enough, they are soon locked in a steamy embrace.

Other standard mystery elements include an attempt to run her car off the road and an encounter with a ridiculously wealthy family. The story does take some unexpected turns, even though there is little suspense until the end.

Director Michael Miller keeps the action moving along and includes some colorful location shots of Los Angeles. There is also zippy Latin music by Mike Garson.

But the main attraction is Fawcett, who makes the most of a juicy role. Perhaps she intends to do more TV movies–or even a series–based around the tough defense attorney.

Martinez, a regular on “Santa Barbara,” has little to do besides come on to Fawcett.

Wendell Mayes’ script, which takes a few cues from film noir classics like “Chinatown,” also calls for a large supporting cast. Even though “Criminal Behavior” doesn’t really qualify as film noir, its well-written characters make it more than just a routine mystery.

Criminal Behavior

(Mon. (11), 9-11 p.m., ABC-TV)

Production

Filmed in Los Angeles by Preston Stephen Fischer Co. in association with Tolivar Prods. and World Intl. Network. Exec producer, Preston Fischer. Co-exec producer, Marjorie Schicktanz. Director, Michael Miller. Writer, Wendell Mayes, based on the novel "The Ferguson Affair," by Ross Macdonald.

Crew

Camera, Thomas Burstyn; co-producer/editor, Benjamin A. Weissman; music, Mike Garson; production design, David Ensley.

Cast

With: Farrah Fawcett, A Martinez, Dakin Matthews, John Hancock, Andrew Robinson, Cliff De Young, Mark LaMura, Angela Paton, Nada Despotovich, Hugo Napier, Romy Walthall and James Gammon.
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