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History Takes On America's Most Notorious Feud And Scores Blockbuster Ratings: Great Mini-Series, Pricey On-Demand,
This review is from: Hatfields & McCoys Season 1 (Amazon Instant Video)
Note: I know prices are subject to change, but I'd like to point out that the introductory offer of $8.99 per episode (or $9.99 HD) is wildly excessive for something that aired for free.
The History Channel has been trying to stretch its wings in recent years and adapt into a more competitive TV marketplace (that's why some of their reality programs seem less and less connected to actual history). Last year, they commissioned their first dramatic mini-series, "The Kennedys," which they then decided not to air due to outside pressures. REELZ picked up "The Kennedys," it became a hit for them, and it won multiple EMMYs at last year's ceremony. Well, I guess the ancestors of the Hatfields and the McCoys don't have as much political clout as the remaining Kennedy clan, because no complaints stopped the ambitious three part "Hatfields and McCoys" from airing. Proving that there is still life for the mini-series format outside of premium cable, "Hatfields and McCoys" was an instant success and a ratings blockbuster. With 13.9 viewers (for the initial broadcast), the show became the number one rated non-sporting event in basic cable history. Pretty good news for the network! Pretty good news for the viewers as well, it almost ensures we'll see History continue to dabble in dramatic programming.
Many already know the story behind this classic feud, so I'll be brief. This is a solidly constructed and well acted project. Kevin Costner does a good job as the stoic Hatfield patriarch and Bill Paxton has a showier bit as the head of the McCoy clan. As the program begins, there are so many peripheral characters that it might take a bit to align everyone into their proper relationships. Once that is done, however, I think each part of the mini-series gets progressively more involving. The Hatfields make out slightly better in terms of representation. Tom Berenger, as Hatfield uncle Jim Vance, is really the catalyst that begins the feud. Almost every bad act from their side of the quarrel stems from Vance, the other family members are more level headed or tend to react justifiably. The McCoys don't fare quite as well, with various supporting characters perpetuating injustices.
There are quite a few good performances throughout. Matt Barr and Lindsay Pulsipher own a lot of Part One as star crossed lovers and both are likable and believable. In addition to Berenger, other great character actors like Powers Boothe and Mare Winningham make an impact. Jena Malone and Andrew Howard bring a lot of vitality as villains in the final installment. But the cast is really immense, you could arguably highlight any number of other actors. I don't think, in the end, that "Hatfields and McCoys" is groundbreaking or revolutionary. But it is solid storytelling and fitfully entertaining. The History Channel will find itself attending this year's primetime EMMY awards in a big way. Let the Hatfields and McCoys battle it out for acting honors, that would be a nice irony. KGHarris, 6/12.
Among the Emmy Nominations:
Outstanding Miniseries of Movie
Bill Paxton: Lead Actor
Kevin Costner: Lead Actor
Tom Berenger: Supporting Actor
Mare Winningham: Supporting Actress