02/06/1989 at 01:00 AM EST
CBS (Sun.-Wed., Feb. 5-8, 9 p.m. ET)
Everything that's wrong with this eight-hour misery—I mean miniseries—is wrong at the start: The look is dry, dusty and dull, like a long, unedited sequel to the superflop Heaven's Gate. Like a bad night on The Arsenio Hall Show, the script is filled with talk, talk, talk, much of it senseless (such as, "I swear, Gus, you'd argue with a possum"). And the entire show presents men in their worst light—cowboys as American Huns who kill, drink, sweat, steal and whore ("How 'bout a poke?" they drawl when they're in a mood for lovin'). So this adaptation of Larry McMurtry's 1985 novel begins as nothing more than the story of some uncivilized and unappealing men who decide on a whim to steal cattle and head north from Texas to Montana. If the show improves—and it does, in fits—it is only because a few good actors put in a lot of hard work. Robert Duvall does the most to raise this thing above the level of bad cowboy parody. He's at his best not when he's acting tough in the saddle but when he's just a little tender with Tommy Lee Jones as his fellow cowboy or with Anjelica Huston and Diane Lane as his women. And those actors are at their best when they're around Duvall. But that's about it for the good roles. The rest are mostly victims of typecasting: Robert Urich as the bad-boy cowboy, Danny Glover as the loyal scout, Ricky Schroder as the innocent kid and, worst of all, Frederic Forrest as a howlingly horrible stereotype of the murderous Indian. This is not a story of good guys versus bad guys. It's a story of good acting versus bad acting, writing and directing. And the bad guys win—for in the end, Lonesome Dove is just so much dust, booze, blood, sweat and hormones churned into one unappetizing miniseries soup.