Return to Lonesome Dove
We had to look at this one, too, though it is not part of McMurtry’s plan. In fact, he and his co-writer, Diana Ossana, were kind of pissed about the whole thing. Apparently he didn’t nail down the rights as firmly as he should have. This series veers off from McMurtry’s version of the sequel in Streets of Laredo. It has some of the virtues of Lonesome Dove, such as bad things happening to good people. Clara’s (Barbara Hershey) ranch burns down in a prairie fire, severely burning Pea Eye. There are new characters, such as black cowboy brothers Isom and Isaac Pickett. (There really were some famous black cowboys, Bill and Ben Pickett.) They sort of feel shoehorned in, as if the story needed some black characters. That’s fine, really, but they play a part in the chief problem with this series: it’s totally predictable. The bad, bad guy, Cherokee Jack, kills Isaac. And Isom (Louis Gossett Jr.) says, with steely-eyed resolve, “He’s mine!” And of course he kills the bastard. Why do I have a problem with that? Because it was the sort of thing that never happens in McMurtry’s books.
One reason I liked this a little bit is that it gave some good actors a chance to reprise their earlier roles, like Chris Cooper as July Johnson, and Ricky Schroder as Newt Dobbs. But then there’s the whole plot about the Evil Montana Land Baron. Oliver Reed just doesn’t fit in here. Neither does Reese Witherspoon as his young wife who sets her sights on poor Newt. That’s all standard Western plotting, a computer could do it.
But there are two things that finally sunk this one for me. One was the casting of Jon Voight as Woodrow Call. I despise Voight for his politics (“Donald Trump is the greatest president since Abraham Lincoln!”), but I really can put that aside. Honest, I can. He was just wrong.
And last but worst, in the end Call gives Newt his name. It’s exactly what we want to happen, it’s exactly what would happen in a John Wayne (or Roy Rogers) Western, and it’s exactly what is not true to the character of Woodrow Call or the writing of Larry McMurtry. I come to the Lonesome Dove books and TV series for something different. But as one reviewer put it: “Stick around for seven hours and you’ll find that this is a perfectly decent Western; you might even shed a tear or two. But you’ll also know that, when it’s finished, a grand piece of TV mythmaking has been reduced to a horse opera.” He nailed it.