In 1979, shortly after The Europeans was completed, Ivory took on an assignment outside Merchant Ivory Productions. One day at lunch he heard that Channel 13 television in New York was doing three adaptations of John Cheever stories for the "Great Performances" series, and that one of them, "The Five Forty Eight," adapted by Terrence McNally, had no director. Ivory then approached channel 13 and persuaded them to let him direct it. The Five Forty Eight, drawn from a Cheever story about the fictional New York suburb of Shady Hill, concerns an advertising man, John Blake (Laurence Luckinbill), who is emotionally estranged from his wife and those around him. His disturbed secretary, Miss Dent (Mary Beth Hurt), whom he has seduced and then fired and discarded, pursues him harrowingly, and in a final scene in which she holds him at gunpoint in a field beyond the Shady Hill railroad station, she forces him to confront the squalor of his life.