So here is one of Hollywood's most colorful couples. Gerald McRaney and Delta Burke sometimes find themselves together, against the world.
She fumes; he comforts. "I was at a place where Mac was the one who took care of me," she says.
So what are they doing now? Surprisingly, they have separate shows ... on separate networks ... in separate parts of the country.
Couldn't one of them slow down? Don't count on it, McRaney says. "I'm a nutcase," he says.
"I have to work. I don't mind taking time off, but after two or three weeks, I have to work."
household is in a state of overemployment, with: - Her "Women of the House," at 8 p.m. EST Wednesdays on CBS. - His "Jake Lassiter: Justice on the Bayou." The movie airs at 9 p.m. Monday (Jan. 9) on NBC, doubling as a pilot for a series.
If McRaney does get a series, there will be big-time commuting. She'll have a show in Hollywood; he'll have one in New Orleans.
"Comedies tend to have a very civilized work schedule," McRaney says. "Chances are, she'd get a week off, every three or four weeks."
And there are always the flings.
"I made a trip to Vancouver, when he was working there," Burke says. "We kind of get the best 24-hour view of a city we can."
It's a hectic life, for people who have one key thing in common: They neatly fit niches for the old and new South.
Burke has the classic, beauty-queen image. Miss Florida at 19, she used the money to study acting in London; then she hit Hollywood, burning with ambition.
McRaney fits newer campus images. "I went to Ole Miss and so did my brother ... My brother graduated from law school at Ole Miss, back when that really meant something."
When we think of the Deep South, of course, we sometimes forget to think about big-city lawyers. Mostly, we skip a lot of in-between parts.
"We seem to go straight from Faulkner to illiterates," McRaney says.
Sure, we've always known that the greatest writers - from William Faulkner to Tennessee Williams to Truman Capote - were Southern. What we might overlook is the midsection.
"At the Faulkner Museum, there is a group of lawyers who meet regularly," McRaney says. "They talk about this book, that book ... "You don't expect to see a group
of high-power lawyers, sitting around talking books, but that's what you get. There's a great, downhome intelligence."
So when McRaney planned a pilot film, he had a couple goals. He wanted the hero to be a lawyer, like his brother. "Lately, you hear talk about a revulsion toward
the law. People would like to see a lawyer they can respect."
And he wanted it to be filmed in the city he's always admired. "New Orleans was always the place you went, if you had any kind of artistic bent."
For starters, New Orleans offers splendid backdrops.
There are the eerily lovely mansions, which novelist Anne Rice describes so vividly. "Miss Rice has one of the finest homes in the Garden District," McRaney says. "The
whole area is spectacular."
And there are many more choices nearby. There's the Gulf Coast, the Bayou, the old architecture and the new downtown.
Some of that
shows up in McRaney's pilot film, which has the usual twists. A gorgeous widow (Tracy Scoggins) blames the surgeon - who is McRaney's client - for her husband's death. A retired pathologist (Robert Loggia) thinks otherwise. It's a quietly competent mystery, boosted by the settings and by McRaney's understated skill.
And if it becomes a series? McRaney and Burke will be in different cities; life will be quieter.
Yes, there are
times when four strong forces are in the same room. McRaney and Burke are Republicans; Harry Thomason and Linda Bloodworth-Thomason (producers of her show) are friends of Bill and Hillary Clinton.
To Burke, this is uncomfortable. "I'm a Republican, but I'm not as intense as the other three."
To McRaney, it's fun. "Harry and I have had some very lively discussions. If you're dealing with someone who is liberal, but has an open mind, that's fine.
" With him in New Orleans, however, Burke has had to take over their half of the arguments.
"Mac can remember everything and everyone's record," Burke says. "I'll tell them: `You just wait until my husband gets here.' "