Escaping from Rachel Maddow's daily political frenzy and the idiocy of Monday Night Football, I came across a "Lonesome Dove" episode on Starz Encore.
Thank goodness, it was the part that mainly takes place on Clara Allen's horse ranch near Ogallala, Neb., not the long and tortuous account of Blue Duck's kidnapping of the prostitute Lorie, which I can barely stand to watch.
The 1989 CBS miniseries taken from Larry McMurtry's novel has beautiful scenery that brings despair over the destruction of the country's natural habitat and public lands. When the miniseries was filmed 30 years ago, the country was freer and more committed to common political action.
A New York Times article about the decline of the Rio Grande made "Lonesome Dove" even more poignant for me. Retired Texas Rangers Woodrow Call and Gus McCrae have established their Lonesome Dove ranch and livery near the great border river that once inspired the shared culture of Mexico and the United States.
Now sadly depleted, the river has become a symbol of turmoil, the locus of Trump and the GOP's political posturing.
The old Rangers decide on a cattle drive to Montana in search of the last untamed frontier. The quest narrative of McMurtry's novel and the movie echoes "the Odyssey," "The Divine Comedy," "Canterbury Tales," "Don Quixiote" and Western novels and Hollywood movies.
The miniseries features a wonderful cast, directed by Simon Wincer. Watching Robert Duvall as Gus, I found it hard to believe that the same actor had played the slick Mafia lawyer Tom in "The Godfather." Duvall portrays the wry, cracker-barrel philosopher and warm-hearted humorist with an underlying violent edge as readers envision him in McMurtry's novel.
Tommy Lee Jones plays the laconic Call with the right measure of repressed emotion that at times erupts in murderous fury. He exhibits the stiff, authoritarian ethical rectitude that turns deadly to those close to him.
The actors range from Robert Ulrich as the doomed former Ranger Jake Spoon to Angelica Huston as McCrae's wise and still lusty old sweetheart Clara.
As with the movie "Dazed and Confused," it's fun to identify then unknown actors who went on to better things.
The young Diane Lane as Lorie has a generic Hollywood prettiness, not the distinctive persona of her later film star years.
Chris Cooper shows up as the earnest sheriff July Johnson, and I did a double take to make certain that was the late Glenne Headly as his run-away wife, Elmira. Margo Martindale surfaces in an amusing cameo as a cynical, aging prostitute.
Already a well-known scene-stealer, Danny Glover glows as the good-hearted, competent scout Deets, whose tragic death is one of the show's most memorable moments. The young teen heartthrob Rickey Schroeder plays Newt, whom Call can't bring himself to acknowledge as his son.
I don't want 't invest the time to watch the rest of the miniseries, which tells of McCrae's harrowing death. But I say that about "The Godfather" as well. Those cable television staples always bring me in, despite my best intentions to resist.