The best thing about this new one-hour syndie series is that it’s suggested by James Fenimore Cooper’s uncorrupted natural man, Natty Bumppo, sometimes known, among other things, as Hawkeye. If the adventures in the first two episodes (airing back-to-back) seem quaint and at times droning, it does boast fierce Indians, French and British armies, and Hawkeye watching everything.
The production itself is handsome, and Lee Horsley makes a valiant if not dynamic Hawkeye, busily eying activities in the 1755 Hudson River Valley.
Into this pre-Revolutionary War saga ride Elizabeth and William Shields to set up a trading post at Fort Bennington, where William’s brother, Capt. Taylor Shields, is stationed.
Hawkeye — whose parents were killed by Indians and who prowls the forests with companion Chingachgook (Rodney A. Grant) — can shoot out the eye of a gnat. He kills Indians only in self-defense, and he rescues people who need help.
Chingachgook so far looks stoic, and that’s about it. Writer-creator Kim LeMasters apparently is biding his time.
Elizabeth is played precisely by Lynda Carter, whose speech pattern aims at proper but comes off stilted. Michael Berry does a commendable job as her husband William, and Garwin Sanford plays Taylor in the time-honored tradition of suave villainy.
Lochlyn Munro and Jed Rees, whose antics relieve the duller moments, are good-hearted bumpkins whom Elizabeth hires to work in the store, and Eric Keenleyside and Richard Sali do Taylor’s evil bidding.
In a day when few youngsters read Cooper — or anything –“Hawkeye” may seem laborious, but Horsley’s mysterious 1700s woodsman and his pal Chingachgook could prove an attention getter.
Kate Healey’s costume designs and Phil Schmidt’s overall production designs are impressive. Tech credits are strong strong overall, despite some glitches, and Joel Goldsmith’s score is helpful.
Series, appearing so far in 84% of the country, will turn up in N.Y. at 9 p.m. Fridays, at 10 p.m. in Los Angeles.
Period pieces don’t come often to commercial TV; here’s an honorable if not captivating attempt.