As to 'The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw' it is rambling, unsure whether its a comedy, a road movie or a drama and its moments of violence are somehow out of kilter with the lighter side of the bulk of this mini-series. For example when Cade, who almost ends up as a 'pantomime villain' in the San Francisco hotel towards the end of the movie, murders one of his men "for thinking". That said it is beautifully shot and mostly well played.
Reba McIntire and Rick Rossovich shine brighter than most of the others, and Kenny Rogers is always good to have on screen. Clint Walker seemed to actually be driving the Overland stagecoach which at age 64 wasn't a bad feat; and with Gene Barry then 72 - as Bat Masterson, still looked pretty good! Unsurprisingly the other former Western characters from days gone by had not stood the test of time quite so well; this shouldn't be a shock I suppose as Chuck Connors for instance died the following year, as did Dub Taylor and Paul Brineger not too long after this film was made. With those and others reprising long-ago roles why was Doug McClure (who also sadly died early four years later) not billed as Trampas, and James Drury as The Virginian?
All in all this was a pleasant way to spend three hours but 'The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw' will not go down in Western TV miniseries history as a great one or even particularly memorable. Particularly so, as 'Lonesome Dove' had shown two years earlier, how to make a great Western mini-series.
Then came 'The Series' with Scott Bairstow, Eric McCormack and the fabulous Christianne Hart which took Newt Call as its lead. Yesterday I got very sadly to the end with the final episode of 'The Outlaw Years'. This was a much grittier outing for the characters than 'The Series' and there is no doubt certain characters underwent changes which were perhaps a little unrealistic, especially Josiah and Austin Peale. That said, they suffered greatly at Hannah's death as did Call who changed completely from 'The Series' but I guess with good cause.
Although the ending left much unsaid and undone (can anyone please tell me if a follow-up was originally planned but pulled?) this was a compelling part of the 'Lonesome Dove' saga, exceptionally well produced, atmospheric and beautifully played by all especially Eric McCormack and Scott Bairstow.
If you watch the episodes in the correct order (not as on the DVD but as listed on this website) and suspend a little disbelief you will find it satisfying and enormously enjoyable.
'Lonesome Dove ' The Outlaw Years' - as with all LD titles - has great merit and I cannot recommend too highly.
Having watched the three above, and read the books I awaited Lonesome Dove The Series with eager anticipation and have not been at all disappointed. Although at times possibly accentuated by the start/end 1920s narration by the elder Newt it smacked of Little House on the Prairie, it avoided going too far in that direction by hardening up the character of Newt and the story lines as the series progressed. Scott Bairstow developed Newt in line with what was thrown at him, at Hannah and the town of Curtis Wells; and having not yet watched The Outlaw Years I don't know where Newt goes next. Christianne Hirt was simply wonderful as Hannah and although I knew roughly what would happen in the final episode, the impact and shock value of the explosion were undiminished that and the abrupt narration free ending closed the series leaving me stunned. It was probably necessary dramatically to finish in that way but I will truly miss Hannah, and the beautiful Miss Hirt..
Given the quality of production, story lines and the actors who graced Lonesome Dove the Series it should be difficult to pick out a clear 'star' of these films but for me the one who stood out even above all the other excellent cast members was Eric McCormack. His portrayal of Colonel Francis Clay Mosby was outstanding. As soon as Mosby comes on the screen your eyes are drawn to him; his controlled anger, the longing for Hannah, the power and strength of what is basically a criminal character and in the third from last episode his losses in the war are revealed helping the viewer to a greater understanding. An incredible anti-hero without whose character this wonderful series would have been diminished.
With the excellent performances, fabulous scenery and production values, and Terry Frewer's music which builds upon the original beautiful Poledouris score, Lonesome Dove The Series is truly outstanding.