Unlike most of his competition in the area of life-styles-of-the-rich-and-famous fiction, writer Dominick Dunne can turn a phrase and roast it with irony. The minor miracle of An Inconvenient Woman, based on Dunne's 1990 novel of the same name, is that it retains the author's sly attitude.
The inconvenient woman in this four-hour miniseries is Flo March (Rebecca DeMornay), your average tough, beautiful waitress with a heart of gold. She becomes the mistress of multimillionaire Los Angeles businessman Jules Mendelson (Jason Robards, in a ripsnorting performance). Mendelson is, in Dunne's phrase, ''the left ventricle of the economic heart of America,'' and An Inconvenient Woman is the saga of this rich man's opulent present and dubious past.
John Pielmeier (Agnes of God) adapted Dunne's book, and as directed by Larry Elikann (I Know My First Name Is Steven), An Inconvenient Woman moves its vast cast along with a briskness rare in miniseries-land. Jill Eikenberry redeems a season's worth of L.A. Lawstiffness as Robards' steel-willed wife, Chad Lowe plays her son as a supremely convincing brat, and Roddy McDowall is a gleefully malicious gossip columnist. Joseph Bologna is currently walking through the moronic Fox sitcom Top of the Heap, but here, he acts his Arnie Zwillman is an archetypal L.A. character: a blackmailing drug dealer who has the style and vocabulary of a Hollywood producer.
The story is narrated in voice-over by a pleasingly cynical writer played by Peter Gallagher (sex, lies, and videotape). Speaking in a confidential murmur, he fills us in on the details of larceny, adultery, and murder among L.A.'s nervous nouveaux riches. I'm usually bored comatose by this kind of trash TV, but Woman is so lively and knowing so careful to avoid mere campiness that it's irresistible. A-