Texas Justice

Early on in the "Texas Justice" two-parter, ultra-wealthy T. Cullen Davis opines that his late daddy kept him and his brother down so they "wouldn't get any smarter than him." Well, in T.S. Cook's script, based on a book by Gary Cartwright, court transcripts and "published accounts," Daddy got his wish: In this incarnation, Cullen's dumb as dirt.

Early on in the “Texas Justice” two-parter, ultra-wealthy T. Cullen Davis opines that his late daddy kept him and his brother down so they “wouldn’t get any smarter than him.” Well, in T.S. Cook’s script, based on a book by Gary Cartwright, court transcripts and “published accounts,” Daddy got his wish: In this incarnation, Cullen’s dumb as dirt.

Lacking warmth and appeal, as his own lawyer says, Cullen (Peter Strauss) inherits $ 100 million, gets caught with blond, flashy trash Priscilla (Heather Locklear) and hey! marries her and her round heels.

He’s social register, she’s cabbage common. He spoils her rotten and builds her a Fort Worth mansion where her daughters by previous marriages join them.

Priscilla and Cullen both drink too much. She’s cheap, he’s extravagant. Cullen catches on after a couple of years that Priscilla might be bouncing her bod on others’ bedsprings and he heads for his lawyer.

Priscilla won’t give him a divorce, and gets the manse.

One dark night a man wearing a woman’s wig breaks into the high-security house, kills a couple of people and wings Priscilla who, along with others, says she saw Cullen under that wig. Cullen hires the best mouthpiece he can find, Richard (Racehorse) Haynes (Dennis Franz), who earns his oats in a tedious trial seg.

Cullen, now living with pretty and comparatively proper schoolmarm Karen (Susan Walters), hires the ex-husband of a friend of Priscilla’s, Dennis (Lewis Smith), to watch Priscilla. Cullen wants that divorce. Or worse.

The story rolls on with an oh!-those-Texans attitude. The blunt production concerns unsympathetic people with nothing to redeem them or make them interesting. An FBI sting supposedly winds up everything but it’s not worth the three-hour buildup. Or Cullen’s response.

Cook’s script, based on fact or not, is neither engrossing nor suspenseful, and the characters are painted in blatant poster colors. People look uneasy in their assigned roles.

Strauss acts manfully as the unswift, self-centered Cullen; Locklear lacks conviction as Priscilla.

Franz looks serious, with his combed-hair manner as the sharp lawyer, but he doesn’t look comfortable. Smith’s insinuating Dennis is a good interp, and Shannon Whirry as Priscilla’s pal Rebecca rings true.

Adding some credibility to the bizarre drama are Kenneth Page as Cullen’s brother Sam, Chris Mulkey as Cullen’s buddy Lanny, Walters as attractive Karen, and Mike Kennedy as holding-firm Houston Judge Mason.

Production designer Guy Barnes emphasizes the extravagant lives of the characters, with everything from crystal and estates to splendid cars (since it takes place in the ’70s, the models are a surprise), and Steven Fierberg’s camera faithfully tracks the action. William B. Stich’s editing suffices. Mark Snow contributes an appropriate score.

Texas Justice

(Sun. (12), Mon. (13), 9-11 p.m., ABC)

  • Production: Filmed in and around Austin, Texas, by Patchett-Kaufman Entertainment, World Intl. Network and Nancy Hardin. Executive producer, Kenneth Kaufman; supervising producer, Ann Kindberg; producer, Hardin; co-producer, Stephanie Hagen; director , Dick Lowry; writer, T.S. Cook; based on the book "Blood Will Tell" by Gary Cartwright.
  • Crew: Camera, Steven Fierberg; editor, William B. Stich; production designer, Guy Barnes; art director, Chip Radaelli; sound, Bob Abbott; music, Mark Snow.
  • Cast: Cast: Peter Strauss, Heather Locklear, Dennis Franz, Lewis Smith, Susan Walters, Chris Mulkey, Linda Hart, Ned Vaughn, Dean Norris, Shannon Whirry, Brandon Smith, Greg Michaels, Matthew Faison, Bill Smitrovich, Blue Deckert, Richard Dillard, Jerry Haynes, Mike Kennedy, Guich Koock, Brad Leland, Haley Millery.
  • Music By: