Picks and Pans Review: The Farmer's Wife

UPDATED 09/21/1998 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 09/21/1998 at 01:00 AM EDT

PBS (Mon.-Wed., Sept. 21-23, 9 p.m. ET)

Show of the week

In recommending this special three-part Frontline documentary, we're not going to varnish the truth: At 6½ hours, it is simply too long. Filmmaker David Sutherland, whose past work on PBS includes profiles of George Washington and painter Jack Levine, could have cut The Farmer's Wife by a third and actually increased its effectiveness. But if Sutherland didn't know when to quit, we venture to say it was only because he loved his subjects too well. And it's easy to see why this project inspired such passion. This is the story of a 30ish Nebraska couple, Darrel and Juanita Buschkoetter, seen struggling between 1994 and 1997 to save their farm, support three young daughters and preserve their marriage. It's an extraordinarily intimate portrait of two decent people who work so hard to make ends meet that they lack the energy for what those with less labor-intensive lives call communication. Sutherland brings you so close to Darrel and Juanita that you feel like their confidant. You hope with all your heart that they'll make a go of it. It seems wrong to wish they'd hurry up a little.

Bottom Line: Exhausting but rewarding

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