Picks and Pans Review: John Jakes' Heaven and Hell: North and South, Part Iii

updated 02/28/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/28/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

ABC (Sun., Feb. 27, 9 p.m. ET)

B-

No way Patrick Swayze was coming back for the third go-round of this florid period soap. Solution? Simple. The sequel kills off Swayze's character...in the opening scene...in a thick fog...without showing his face.

His widow (Lesley-Anne Down) tries to make a go of the ruined plantation Mont Royal with the help of Swayze's best friend and Civil War adversary (James Read). A secondary plot takes us out west to fight the Indians with the black Buffalo Soldiers. The miniseries' dastardly villain is played again by Philip Casnoff, the star of the 1992 CBS biopic Sinatra.

It takes a good deal of prodding to get this big spavined story rolling, with the dialogue doing an unseemly amount of work. So in the middle of a casual chat, we gel expository lines: "You know I wouldn't be alive today if Orry and Charlie hadn't broken me out of that Confederate prison."

This saga of romance, treachery, prejudice and blood feuds requires a large cast loo (see story, page 76), including Homefront's Kyle Chandler, Cathy Lee Crosby, Chris Burke (Life Goes On), Tom Noonan, Stan Shaw, Cliff de Young and returnees Jonathan Frakes, Genie Francis and Terri Garber. That's not counting the obtrusive cameo casting: Peter O'Toole, Robert Wagner, Mariette Hartley, Billy Dee Williams and Rip Torn.

I've yet to see a Civil War-era epic dramatized on TV that didn't look like a bad Disney diorama. (I shudder at the prospect of Scarlett.) This banal but lively six-hour corker (continuing on Monday and Wednesday) is better than most.

From Our Partners