January 03, 2008

Preview of Comanche Moon

"Comanche Moon," Jan. 13, 15 and 16, CBSBased on the fourth and final novel in the popular sequence by Larry McMurtry that began with "Lonesome Dove"--the first volume was made into a miniseries in 1989--this installment follows both the professional and personal fortunes of a band of Rangers under the command of Capt. Inish Scull (Val Kilmer).

A Yankee by birth, Scull is wealthy and aristocratic, but by no means effete. Having proved his mettle by heroic service in the Mexican-American War, he now boasts an unbroken string of victories over a newer set of adversaries: marauding Indians. That record is in jeopardy, however, as he sets out to track and punish the renowned Comanche horse thief, Kicking Wolf (Jonathon Joss).

Joining him on this expedition are two temperamentally ill-sorted subordinates, taciturn Woodrow F. Call (Karl Urban) and garrulous Augustus "Gus" McCrae (Steve Zahn). As they pursue their prey, guided by their scout, Famous Shoes (David Midthunder), they find themselves contending with two other formidable opponents. Chief Buffalo Hump (Wes Studi) wanders the region at will, far from resigned to defeat by the whites, while sadistic Mexican bandit Ahumado (Sal Lopez) remains holed up in his lair across the border.
Is it any good?The series shows the Old West in a thoroughly unromantic light, idealizing neither its lawmen nor its native warriors. Only the scenery through which they pass remains traditionally vast and captivating.

Although some of the leading characters, especially Scull, are genuinely intriguing, much of the intended humor falls flat. The series nonetheless provides enough action to maintain interest.
Comment:  Not idealizing whites or Indians is roughly what Dick Wolf and company claimed about Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. We know how prejudiced that turned out. Let's hope not idealizing Indians isn't code for denigrating or degrading them.

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