TV REVIEW : Disney Revives Davy Crockett With Dunigan as Frontiersman

Has Davy Crockett changed between 1955 and 1988?

I can't recall Davy eyeing a beautiful young woman (Cheryl Arutt) skinny-dipping in the original 1954-55 shows, as he does in the two-hour "Rainbow in the Thunder," the first of five new "Davy Crockett" episodes that will appear on "The Magical World of Disney" this season (Sunday at 7 p.m., Channels 4, 36 and 39).

Still, the new Davy (Tim Dunigan) doesn't forget about his unseen wife and kids. While he obviously enjoys the view of the naked woman (his view is probably more detailed than ours), he doesn't let it blind him to the sight of some marauding Creek Indians who also have their eye on the skinny-dipper. Needless to say, his warning saves the young woman.

This Davy is relatively sensitive to the plight of the Indians themselves--in a way that would have been surprising in a '50s show. That is to say, he doesn't question the premise of the war against the Indians, but he does protest the excessive cruelty toward them displayed by young Andrew Jackson (Matt Salinger).

Those Indians look like exotic Melrose Avenue creations in this 2-hour episode. But the rest of the show is solidly crafted by writer William Blinn and director David Hemmings (and a spokeswoman for Disney swears that the look of the Indians is authentic).

Hemmings also plays the older Andy Jackson in the framework from which we flashback to Davy's earlier years, and Johnny Cash is strong and authoritative as the older Crockett. Gangly Gary Grubbs is awkwardly appealing as Davy's erstwhile rival and fast friend, Georgie Russell.

As for Dunigan, he won't make anyone forget Fess Parker--primarily because he looks and acts a lot like Fess Parker. If you've seen one "king of the wild frontier," you've seen 'em all.

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