How does this new TV movie based on the 1972-77 cop show The Streets of San Francisco get around the fact that half of its original star team, Michael Douglas, has become such a hot movie star there’s no way he’d return to the small screen? By turning his character, Steve Keller, into a corpse. Keller is found dead in San Francisco Bay, giving this movie the chances for: a teary funeral scene; a few sentimental film clips highlighting Douglas in his role; and a new case for Steve’s mentor, Mike Stone (Karl Malden), to solve.
And while much of Back to the Streets of San Francisco is concerned with finding Steve’s killer, the movie is really about finding Stone, recently promoted to police captain, a new partner. Will it be a brainy hotshot played by Conor O’Farrell, or a tough hothead played by Debrah Farentino (Equal Justice)?
Viewers who loved the original Streets of San Francisco are bound to be disappointed by this updating of Malden’s character. When he isn’t spouting a police-show cliché (”I’m just a cop — that’s all I’ll ever be”), he’s portrayed as a cranky old sexist who doesn’t want to work with Farentino because, he tells her, ”You just can’t handle your emotions.” Farentino’s character will inevitably prove him wrong, of course.
Back to the Streets seems to be setting up a situation in which, if the ratings are good, Malden could join up with Farentino as an odd-couple team in another film, or even another weekly series. But this version of Malden’s Mike Stone seems woefully out-of-touch — a hero who should have retired a while ago. C-