Pros: All episodes digitally remastered for this fantastic television series
Cons: No special features :-(
One day while flipping through the channels, my sister came across Lonesome Dove - The Outlaw Years. This was a television show that was based after the characters of the book Lonesome Dove written by Larry McMurtry. My sister, who knows my taste quite well, got me hooked on this one hour television show as well and each week we looked forward to watching it. We knew this show was in syndication (we were watching it on TNT at the time) and we knew what we were watching were repeats but we didn't care. Then we found out that the Outlaw Years was actually season 2, with season 1 being called Lonesome Dove - The Series. We were in heaven.....2 seasons of Lonesome Dove to watch! Little did we know just how different those 2 seasons are! This review is on the first season.......
Background Info on Lonesome Dove
My sister and I developed a love affair with Lonesome Dove after watching the mini-series on TV years ago. We loved it so much that we went out and bought the mini-series on vhs tape when it first was released. If I remember correctly, the mini-series was comprised of 3 or 4 tapes. Then Return to Lonesome Day came out and we bought that. As each new Lonesome Dove series came out, we would buy it as soon as we could. When my sister ran across the television series we thought we had died and gone to heaven.
If you haven't ever read the book Lonesome Dove or seen the mini-series then you will need a little background information. You don't need a lot because the series does stand on it's own quite well but certain things that are said here or there may be confusing if you don't know any of the background history. Mostly that of Lonesome Dove the mini-series and Return to Lonesome Dove. Here is a quick rundown so that you can get a full picture of Lonesome Dove - The Series:
Newt Dobbs (played by Rick Schroeder in the mini-series) is the son of a prostitute and Woodrow Call (played by Tommy Lee Jones), ex-Texas Ranger and would be cattle rancher. Woodrow is a man of few words who lives and works with some of his best friends, mostly particularly Gus McCrae (played by Robert Duvall). Gus is a happy go lucky cowboy who will talk the ear off anyone who wants to listen. Both Woodrow and Gus would do anything for their friends, even give their own lives if need be. When Newt's mother passes away, Newt is sent to live with his father and grows up among all these colorful characters. Woodrow and Gus, deciding they were sick of Texas, steal a bunch of cattle down in Mexico and, along with their crew, make the long drive up to Montana. Newt learns a lot about survival and life along the way. Gus dies soon after they arrive in Montana but before he does, he has 2 deathbed wishes that he asks of Woodrow. First he asks that Woodrow bring his body back to Texas for burial and secondly, he asks Woodrow to give Newt Woodrow's last name and let him know that he is his father, something Newt suspected but never knew for sure. Woodrow does keep his promise and brings Gus's body back to Texas (enduring a lot along the way) but he can't bring himself to give Newt his last name and instead gives Newt his horse named Hell B*tch. (In the tv series that this review is being written about, Newt still has the Hell B*tch and does so for both seasons.) That's where the mini-series Lonesome Dove ends and then Return to Lonesome Dove picks up from there. The first part of Return to Lonesome Dove is all about Woodrow's journey to bring Gus's body back to Lonesome Dove, Texas for burial. However, Newt also has a journey of his own. Upset and hurt that Woodrow wouldn't give him his name, Newt sets out on his own and finds himself at a neighboring rival ranch working for a man named Dunnegan. This makes Woodrow quite angry and the 2 of them have a falling out which prompts Newt to stay on at the Dunnegan ranch. Newt and Dunnegan's very young wife (played by Reese Witherspoon) fall in love and Dunnegan knows this and is ok with it as long as nothing happens between the 2 of them until after he is dead. When Dunnegan starts using scare tactics to get the other ranchers in the area to do what he wants, Newt realizes what a big mistake he made and goes back to Woodrow. They patch things up after taking care of Dunnegan and Woodrow finally gives Newt his last name and acknowledges him as his son. Newt now goes by the name of Newt Call and he strikes out as a young man to make his mark in the world. Newt ventures into the town of Curtis Wells one day and this is where the television series Lonesome Dove - The Series begins.
I know that was quite long winded but I knew that if you knew some of the background history, then a couple of these episodes would have a lot more meaning to you.
Details about Lonesome Dove - The Series DVD Boxed Set
Lonesome Dove - The Series has 21 episodes and is in a box set that contains 5 DVDs. The set as a whole is wonderful as far as the episodes goes but if you're looking for any special features you can just forget it because there aren't any. There are also no subtitles, closed captioning, director's commentary, previews.....nothing. This boxed set contains only the episodes and scene selections and that's it. This, of course, bugs me and my sister to no end but I'll get into that more later on in this review.
Lonesome Dove - The Series first aired in September 1994 and ended in May 1995. After that, the Outlaw Years take over but that's a whole other review. The Series is made up of all Canadian actors and the whole television series was shot in Canada and first aired there as well. Each episode is an hour long or at least it was on tv, cut out the commercials and you probably have a 45 minute episode. The total run time on all 5 DVDs combined is 16 1/2 hours long so there's lots to watch!
There are 5 main characters, several recurring characters and a whole slew of guest stars, many of them well known.
Newt Call - played by Scott Bairstow (Party of Five, Harsh Realm). Scott does a fantastic job of taking over for Rick Schroeder and in my opinion, plays the roll even better. I gave you all of Newt's background earlier in this review so I won't bore you again with his specific details. Suffice it to say that in the beginning Newt's innocence is very much evident and you really see him grow through out this series.
Hannah Peale Call - played by Christianne Hirt. Hannah is Newt's love interest at first and later his wife. Hannah is a very strong woman who isn't afraid of speaking her mind and doing what she thinks is right, even at personal cost to herself.
Josiah Peale - played by Paul Le Mat (American Graffiti, The Burning Bed) Josiah is father to Hannah and Austin. He is a widower and is afraid for Hannah's safety and wants her to move back East. He is the owner of Curtis Well's newspaper the Montana Statesmen.
Austin Peale - played by Paul Johasson (Highlander: The Raven, Beverly Hills 90210). Austin is Hannah's brother and Josiah's son. He ends up being a brother-in-law to Newt and his best friend. Austin is a bit naive and what they would call a greenhorn. He wasn't good with a gun in the beginning but became much better by the end of the series.
Colonel Francis Clay Mosby - played by Eric McCormack (Will and Grace). Known mostly as Mosby throughout the series, Eric does a fantastic job of playing this character. If you've seen him as Will on Will and Grace then you won't hardly recognize him here. He sports long hair, a beard, and a southern accent. Mosby is an outlaw who falls in love with Hannah because of the striking resemblance she bears to his dead wife. He is a Civil War veteran who is very haunted by the war and all that he lost during it (his whole family and home). He is best friends with Robert Shaw, who he's known since boyhood and he decides to settle down in Curtis Wells after winning the local saloon in a poker game. Mosby still has a little bit of outlaw in him but will help out the town in a pinch.
Ida Grayson - played by Diahann Carol (A Different World, The Colbys). Ida is wife to Aaron Grayson and after his death buys the local hotel and names it Lonesome Dove for Newt because he helped her to acquire it. She is friends with just about everyone in town but most especially to Newt and Hannah.
Buffalo Bill Cody - played by Dennis Weaver (Gunsmoke). Bill Cody and Newt become friends when Cody comes across Newt out on the plains and they battle thieves together. Cody has a dream of putting on a show full of actors to portray what life was like out in the frontier before it became "tame" (not that it was tame by our standards at the time but to him it was). Buffalo Bill shows up in several episodes and is the central focus in at least 2 of them.
Luther Root - played by Bret Hart (WWF, Bret "The Hit Man" Hart). Luther is a mountain man who isn't introduced until the last 5 five episodes but he becomes a regular guest on the Outlaw Years so I decided to include him in here. Luther at first seems quite a violent uncivilized man who acts on his feelings first then asks questions later. As the character of Luther grows we see that that is not the case. Luther and Call become friends in this series but their relationship really takes off during the Outlaw Years.
There are many guest stars with names that you'll surely have heard of.....Graham Greene, Rae Dawn Chong, Judge Reinhold, George Kennedy, Billy Dee Williams, and Annette O'Toole, just to name a few.
There are 21 episodes and I took extensive notes on each one but I have pared them down quite a bit so that I don't give away too much vital information but also so I don't bore you to death. However, with there being 21 of them to go through, this section of this review is going to be a bit long.....
O Western Wind - On his way to the nearest town, which happens to be Curtis Wells, Newt Call meets up with the famous Buffalo Bill Cody. They hear shots and go to the aid of Ida Grayson who is in the process of being robbed. Ida, an African American lady, is having trouble finding a place to stay while she waits for her husband, who is a scout for the army. Newt takes care of that and sees that she's put up in the local hotel. Thus the friendship between Ida & Newt and Cody & Newt begin. Meanwhile, Newt and Hannah Peale, the daughter of the newspaper owner, have taken a liking to each other. Another newcomer to the town, Clay Mosby, has his eye on Miss Hannah Peale as well. While all of this is going on, Red Hawk, an Indian friend of the Peale's, buys the Peale's old printing press when they purchase a new one and he has an accident while bringing it home to his tribe.
Notable guest stars - Billy Dee Williams plays Aaron Grayson and Graham Greene plays Red Hawk.
Down Came the Rain - As this episode starts off, it becomes apparent that Clay Mosby isn't what he appears to be. Red Hawk is kidnapped and Aaron comes to his rescue only to be attacked by Red Hawk's enemy, Spotted Elk. The result of the attack changes Ida's world forever. Newt and Austin mount a rescue effort to save Red Hawk and Newt deals with Spotted Elk. Newt and Hannah's romance progresses and he proposes to her only to have Hannah's father refuse to allow the marriage to take place. Mosby's attraction to Hannah deepens as well because of her resemblance to his deceased wife Mary.
Notable guest star - Billy Dee Williams plays Aaron Grayson.
When Wilt Thou Blow - Ida is interested in the local hotel which is up for sale and with the help of Newt, she buys it. The railroad wants to come through town with the help of some Russian financial backers but Mosby and his friends have plans for the money the Russians deposited in the town's bank. Much to the chagrin of Mosby, Josiah finally agrees to the marriage between Newt and Hannah.
Notable guest star - David Cubitt plays Robert Shelby.
Wild Horses - Horse thieves kill a local farming couple while their young son watches from the hen house. Newt came to visit the farm later on that day and finds the dead couple. Newt brings the boy home with him, who is suffering from shock and hasn't spoken a word. Meanwhile, a criminal is being transported by a marshall when the marshall has a heart attack and dies. The criminal takes over the marshall's identity thus becoming Marshall Fowler. He makes his way into Lonesome Dove and Newt isn't fooled one bit but brings the "Marshall" onto the case of the horse thieves.
Notable guest star - Judge Reinhold plays Marshall Fowler
Judgement Day - An Indian named Little Bear saves Newt from an attack by other Indians and the 2 of them become friends. Austin also becomes friends with Little Bear and while the 3 of them are camping out at Little Bear's Indian camp, a man they had trouble with in a bar comes and kills Little Bear. Meanwhile, Mosby has won the local saloon in a poker game and his best friend Robert Shelby is accused of murder when he accidently kills a drunk man. The town cries for justice and a visiting judge takes both the Robert Shelby case and the Little Bear case.
Notable guest stars - David Cubitt plays Robert Shelby and George Kennedy plays Judge Calder
Duty Bound - Newt is building a house for him and Hannah and they fight over whether or not to use the money that Hannah's mother left her. Hannah wants to use the money to hire people to build the house and Newt wants to do all the work and earn all the money himself. The army is gong after the Winfield gang and Newt takes the job for some extra money. The army is also having trouble with deserters and Newt is forced to track them down whether he wants to or not. Meanwhile, a group of people who were moved off their farms to protect them from the Winfield gang have come down with some sort of fever and Hannah and Mosby help take care of them.
No real notable guest stars in this episode.
Long Shot - Newt is still working for the army when they come across Indians who have died from bad whiskey. Turns out that Mosby has also been serving this bad whiskey, unbeknownst to him. The girlfriend of one of the bad whiskey traders is ordered to be shot by the leader of the gang because she knows too much. Her boyfriend, who is new to the gang and really wants to leave it, helps her to escape. She makes her way to Curtis Wells and Ida befriends her. Mosby and Newt capture the boyfriend and the 3 of them go after the bad whiskey traders.
No real notable guest stars in this episode.
Last Stand - Wild Bill Cody is back in town rounding up people for his show in Chicago and he wants Newt to join him. Newt and Hannah are still having the same argument about using the money her mother left her to finish the house. The army comes along and asks for Cody's help in tracking down Iron Bow, an Indian that Cody has fought before but now has mutual respect for. Meanwhile, Austin plagiarizes one of Cody's dime novel stories for the newspaper and Josiah fires him when he finds out. Austin takes off to Sweatwater, a town of very ill repute, and Hannah goes after him.
Note - The untrusting Indian Brave also plays a major role in an episode of the Outlaw Years. Mrs. Hackett the shop keeper (played by Georgie Collins) makes her first of several appearances in the series.
Ballad of a Gunfighter - Curtis Wells is hosting a Founders Day Dance and a man named Murph shows up at the dance and performs. Turns out he's a Pinkerton Agent who is after the O'Malley gang. The O'Malley's are a group of Irish bank robbers and both Murph and Newt get mixed up with them. Meanwhile, Austin thinks he killed a known gunslinger named Vern Parker and he thinks he's become a hot shot gunslinger himself.
Michael Martin Murphey plays Murph.
Where the Heart is - Curtis Wells buys a bunch of cattle and Newt is hired as the trail boss and will be leading the cattle to market. He and Austin hire a lot of people to help with the cattle drive, including an old friend of Newt's named Teck. Teck and Newt were friends back when Newt was working on Dunnegan's ranch and Newt is happy to have someone aboard with experience. While on the trail Newt is shot and the cattle are stolen. Austin rushes him back to Curtis Wells. While he's stuck in bed recovering, Hannah hires people with the money her mother left her and has the house finished. When Newt finds out he and Hannah have a nasty fight and Newt, even though he's suppose to take it easy, goes out looking for the stolen cattle.
Notable guest star - Olivia Hussey plays Olivia Jessup who is first introduced in this episode.
Firebrand - Newt and Hannah buy an unbroken horse and on the way back home they run across a mixed race couple who need help. The couple are leary of coming to Curtis Wells at first because of the bad reception they've received in other towns however Ida makes them feel right at home. A horse race is approaching and the Hell B*tch is in season and therefore can't race. Newt is forced to ride the new stallion who isn't quite broken in yet and Mosby makes a bet with Newt on the outcome of the race.
Notable guest star - Rae Dawn Chong plays May Lawson.
High Lonesome - Austin accidently kills a guy while he and Newt are in Sweatwater. The dead guy's friends come and beat the crap out of Austin and Newt and robs Newt of the ring he bought for Hannah. They end up becoming separated and Austin finds himself in jail for the murder. Newt runs into a mountain man named Curtis, who, turns out, is the founder of the town Curtis Wells. Curtis nurses Newt back to health and teaches him a thing or two about surviving out in the wild. Newt makes his way back to Sweatwater in search of Austin then he goes after the guys to get Hannah's ring back.
Notable guest star - Jack Elam plays Curtis.
Law and Order - Men show up at Newt and Hannah's house saying they want to buy their land even though it's not for sale. The men and their leader Gibbs, who have something to do with Mosby and Miss Jessup, are bothering other farming families nearby as well. Meanwhile, a new sheriff is in town named Sheriff Kearney and he makes Newt his deputy. A bunch of men from town go after Gibbs and Gibbs comes into town and tries to rob Mosby.
Notable guest star - Denny Miller plays Sheriff Kearney
The Road Home - Newt gets ambushed by Indians while out on the plains and is struck unconscious. When he comes to he finds he's been robbed and the Hell B*tch taken so he flags down a passing stagecoach and gets a ride. A man on the stagecoach named Mr. Shaw killed a man back in the last town and now the dead man's brother and friends are coming after him, putting everyone on the stagecoach in danger.
No real notable guest stars in this episode.
Blood Money - Newt comes across a gun fight and stops to help. The man he's helping, named Rance, is an old friend of Sheriff Kearney's so the Sheriff offers him a job as a deputy. Turns out Sheriff Kearney's friend has changed quite a bit since the last time Kearney saw him. Meanwhile, Hannah's old boyfriend is released from prison and the whole town is treating him rather badly except for Newt, Hannah and Austin.
Notable guest star - Jeremy Ratchford plays Travis.
Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show - Newt and Hannah travel to Bismark to see Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. Cody's wife also travels to see him and it seems their marriage may be in danger. What is also in danger is whether the show will be able to go on because of lack of money. When Newt and Hannah put up their ranch as collateral so that Cody can get a loan, desperate measures are taken to find the person who is trying to sabotage the show.
Notable guest star - Linda Sorenson plays Lulu Cody.
The Traveler - Hannah becomes friends with a traveling photographer named Claudia Harrell. Mosby is smitten with her (forgetting his infatuation with Hannah for at least one episode) and Newt is suspicious of her because she resembles the description of a woman who is wanted for murdering her husband. Luther Root makes his first appearance as a mountain man who has appointed himself as Claudia's protector.
Notable guest star - Annette O'Toole plays Claudia Harrell.
Rebellion - Newt arrives in Sweatwater to sell some horses only to find the town has dramatically changed. While there Newt befriends a little girl who is there to meet her father for the first time. Meanwhile, Mosby's friend Robert Shelby comes back to Curtis Wells because he needs Mosby's help. Mosby hides him out because he is still wanted for murder and has to play doctor to help out his boyhood friend. Back in Sweatwater, Newt helps the town to fight against the people who have taken it over.
No new notable guest stars in this episode although David Cubitt reprises his role of Robert Shelby.
The List - Curtis hobbles into town with a hurt foot and informs Newt that he's found the mother load of gold resulting in gold fever striking the town. Curtis wants his story told and convinces Josiah to write it down saying he'll pay to have the church finished. The army comes to town to help with law and order while the gold rush is on, much to the relief of Newt who is having to handle everything by himself while Sheriff Kearney is out of town. Armstrong, the army Captain, isn't what he appears to be and Mosby attacks him based on something that happened while they were both in the Civil War.
No new notable guest stars appear in this episode although Jack Elam reprises his role as Curtis.
Ties That Bind - The Hell B*tch shows up without Newt but has blood on her and one of Newt's boots hanging from the stir up. Newt's father, Captain Woodrow Call, shows up to help look for him claiming that Newt wouldn't let the Hell B*tch throw him. Newt is presumed dead when a body is brought in wearing his clothes but the face in unrecognizable because wolves have gotten to it. The captain, refusing to believe that Newt is dead, goes out looking for him and comes across some trouble of his own. Mobsy does his best to help out Hannah while she grieves and the 2 of them share a kiss.
Notable guest star - Lee Majors plays Captain Woodrow Call and does an excellent job by staying true to the character.
Snowbound - Newt comes across a group of men who are in need of help and brings them back to Curtis Wells. Mosby presses his case with Hannah and Newt witnesses an argument between the 2 of them and begins to become suspicious. Later that night he asks Hannah for the truth and she tells him about the kiss that happened between her and Mosby. Meanwhile, the men that Newt rescued have taken over the town and while Newt, Mosby, and Luther fight back an explosion occurs that changes the lives of everyone in town.
No notable guest stars in this episode.
That's the end of the episode guide but I wanted to mention that Scott Bairstow narrates an introduction to every episode (except for the last one) which shows an old man in a house going through a book he wrote about his life in Montana. After watching the second season and seeing how different everything and everyone is, the narration in the beginning of these episodes somehow seems so wrong. I really can't explain it any more than that without giving away key elements except to say that I can't imagine Newt Call turning into that reminiscing old man after watching the second season. Once you watch the second season you'll understand what I mean.
Why I Recommend Lonesome Dove - The Series
The book and mini-series Lonesome Dove sparked off an almost cult following with fans snatching up each new book Larry McMurtry wrote as fast as they could. The same happened with each movie and mini-series made from those books. Unfortunately, Lonesome Dove - The Series (and the Outlaw Years) never was advertised well enough to allow for the same following that the books and mini-series received. First it was shown only in Canada and when we finally got it here in the states, it was shown on tv so late at night that not many people knew about it. It was just a fluke that my sister came across it one night thus sparking our interest in the series. Luckily for us we had already watched the mini-series and had fallen in love with all the characters so our interest in the television series was there from the first episode we watched. As I said earlier, we watched all the episodes out of order and even started watching season 2 before we even knew season 1 existed. Trust me, watching season 2 first did leave us confused because Newt Call seemed so out of character from the mini-series but upon watching season 1, everything made complete and total sense.
The con that I have isn't with the series itself because the episodes are all wonderful. Granted, some are more exciting than others but they all captured mine and my sister's attention. I do think the romance between Newt and Hannah happened rather quickly but since it was a television series, I can see why they had them fall in love and marry so quickly. You can only squeeze so much into 21 episodes so I can see where they had to rush the romance between the 2 of them.
What I really have a problem with is the DVD package itself and the fact that there is nothing extra in this set. Not one single extra feature is included unless you want to count their poor excuse for scene selections. I would have loved to have had some interviews with the cast. I know that this series is older but are you telling me that back when it was being filmed that not one of the many actors gave an interview with anybody about the series? Or how about some bloopers? They can't tell me that every actor did every scene perfectly. No behind the scenes shots were ever filmed? What about subtitles or closed captioning? As far as I know, you can't get this series in any language except for English so if you only speak Spanish and are interested in watching this, you're out of luck as well. This seems to be a problem with the company that put out these DVDs. When trying to find it's website when I filled out the request to have this product added to the database, I came across a couple of articles about how this company buys up the rights to old tv series and just slaps them together on DVD without any special features and then they won't even allow anyone to have a list of which tv series they've put out. Why wouldn't they want the free advertising? If you want your product to sell, then wouldn't you make it so that other people in other countries can watch it too by just simply adding a couple of foreign language subtitles? The more accessible you make a product, the more people will buy it and the more money you'll make. It makes me sad that there are people around the world who have probably fallen in love with the characters from Lonesome Dove and because of a language barrier, will never get to watch the continuing story of what happens to Newt Call. For them, the series ended at Return to Lonesome Dove when in fact, there is so much more to the story!
You must wonder why I gave this DVD set 5 stars when I've been complaining that there isn't any special features on it. It's because I never thought I'd be able to buy this series on DVD to begin with. My sister and I taped all the episodes from both seasons off tv and the tapes are mediocre at best. In fact the tapes, when played on my tv, are grainy and the sound only comes out of one speaker. Having Lonesome Dove - The Series on DVD is something I never thought I'd see because other more popular series haven't even made it on DVD yet (like Wings for example which I want to get for my Father-in-law who loves that show). The episodes have all been digitally remastered and look stunning and the sound is crisp and actually plays in stereo. So, even with the lack of special features and subtitle options, I'm still thrilled to death to own my copy of Lonesome Dove - The Series and therefore highly recommend it to anyone who is a Lonesome Dove fan.
Last but certainly not least, I'd like to thank Shannon for adding Lonesome Dove - The Series to the database for me!