Lookie here, you varmint. If’n you’re of a mind to watch 10 hours ’bout the Texas Revolution, you durned well better not be watchin’ this un. Now git.
Oh whoops, sorry — I’m so incensed, I mean inspired, by the script of “Texas Rising,” a new History miniseries, that I keep finding myself lapsing into its idiocy, I mean idiom. Really, it’s hard to believe that this five-part fail, I mean tale, made it onto History, whose other scripted projects — including “Vikings” and “Hatfields & McCoys” — have been better, I mean much, much better.
The miniseries begins, Monday night at 9, with a few fast-scrolling paragraphs — always a fun opener — explaining what led to the first scene: the Alamo in ruins in 1836. From that point on, the story jumps among different camps whose men are violently trying to hold on to the territory, painting each camp with broad brushstrokes and in black and white paint. The Mexicans and the Comanches are embarrassingly cartoonish, with the mustachioed Olivier Martinez doing his best Snidely Whiplash as General Antonio López de Santa Anna, the leader of the nasty, cockfighting Mexican soldiers. Bwahahahaha.
Meanwhile, as General Sam Houston, leader of the Texans, Bill Paxton is all strategic caution and heroism, of course, delivering lines peppered with clichés about having to “live to fight another day.” He bucks his small troop’s desire to avenge the Alamo, acutely aware that they are outnumbered. He enlists the Yellow Rose of Texas herself, Emily West (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) to avenge her dead brother by serving as a spy.
The cast includes Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Deaf Smith, a wise, valiant Texas Ranger with a secret illness, and Ray Liotta, a guy who survives the Alamo and goes on a murderous rampage. Jeremy Davies plays a coward who deserted, got caught, and must now rehab his reputation. Kris Kristofferson is on board this junk boat as President Andrew Jackson, and Brendan Fraser shows up as a Texas Ranger who was raised by Indians. And there are some misguided attempts at comic relief with a few younger soldiers getting all “Silicon Valley” whenever they see women. Perhaps the History channel thinks this subplot is going to attract younger viewers.
All of these characters and factions will inevitably converge, it seems, although it’s hard to have faith in the script, which was written by Leslie Grief, Darrell Fetty, and George Nihil. The overall plotting is as disjointed as it is clichéd. I know the miniseries is set in the 1830s, but aren’t we at the point now, in the 2010s, when we no longer want to see history reduced to offensive stereotypes and simplistic good versus bad morality? All due respect to those old westerns, but it’s time for their kind to giddyup outta these here parts for good.
Starring: Bill Paxton, Ray Liotta, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Olivier Martinez, Kris Kristofferson, Brendan Fraser, Jeremy Davies
Time: Monday night, 9-11Matthew Gilbert can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.