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TV Review : ‘Lonesome Dove’ Series: Milking the Name

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Don’t get confused, cowhands: There’s yet another network miniseries sequel to “Lonesome Dove” in the works (this time based on Larry McMurtry’s own novel sequel, “Streets of Laredo”), centering around Capt. Woodrow Call and company. But the syndicated show that premieres tonight under the “Lonesome Dove” name is an entirely distinct maxi -series sequel, featuring only one holdover character, Call’s twentysomething son, Newt.

In other words, “Lonesome Dove: The Series” is more or less the “Deep Space Nine” of this family tree. Not a second of this spinoff takes place within 500 miles of Lonesome Dove, Tex., of course, but a brand name’s a brand name.

The primary setting circa 1870 is Curtis Wells, Montana, into which rides sweet, strapping, quick-draw Newt Call (Scott Bairstow, taking the Rick Schroder role). His ramblin’ plans change for good when he lays his trigger eye on Hannah (Christianne Hirt), who, like all beautiful young female leads in contemporary Westerns, is a headstrong feminist a century ahead of her time. Theirs is definitely a marriage made in Heaven’s Gate.

But even a wedding a few episodes hence won’t dim the enthusiasm held for Hannah by another shooter--darkly handsome bad guy Mosby (Eric McCormack), a former Confederate officer who’s taken up a life of crime to avenge the Union murder of his wife. Hannah just happens to resemble the Dixie-whistler’s late missus.

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Fortunately, there’s a lot more hokum going on besides this tiresome triangle, at least in the guest-star-heavy opening trilogy of episodes. The barroom fisticuffs and cowboys-and-Indians gunplay are just enough to make the series a regular “Lonesome Hawk,” if you catch our drift. (But before you get too attached, just remember, there’s a reason why Billy Dee Williams is a “special guest star” and not a regular.)

Veteran helmer Sidney Furie has directed with little sense of pretension that the script (by Tom Towler and Stephen Zito) has any of the solemn sophistication of the first miniseries, rather aiming this round-up at kids and more indiscriminate Western loyalists. The performers--including Diahann Carroll, Graham Greene and Paul Le Mat among the older hands--largely founder amid the cliches, but the luscious Canadian Rocky Mountain scenery very much lives up to its star status.

* “Lonesome Dove” premieres at 8 tonight on KCOP-TV Channel 13.


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