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Abc Movie Special the Ranger, the Cook and a Hole in the Sky

Mac struggles with being 17 and loses: He's cocky and mean, and he snipes particularly at Hawkes. Bell encourages Mac to do his job, and, when Mac gets out of order, banishes him for a while to a lookout point. As summer winds down, Bell, a terrible card player, surprisingly works up a plan for everyone to invest in a poker game that Hawkes will play in town; it's a prize, if dishonorable, game, and Mac begins to smarten up.

Mac struggles with being 17 and loses: He’s cocky and mean, and he snipes particularly at Hawkes. Bell encourages Mac to do his job, and, when Mac gets out of order, banishes him for a while to a lookout point. As summer winds down, Bell, a terrible card player, surprisingly works up a plan for everyone to invest in a poker game that Hawkes will play in town; it’s a prize, if dishonorable, game, and Mac begins to smarten up.

It’s Mac’s story. O’Connell, “Sliders” luminary, is topflight as the evolving adolescent Mac.

Elliott, playing without a moustache, commands the screen, as usual. Parker’s a delight as the waitress who helps Mac. Jay does well as the mysterious Hawkes.

Director Harrison brings off the tale by never overstating it and by measuring Mac’s growth without trumpeting it.

Henry Lebo’s lensing and Michael Ornstein’s editing are superior, while Lawrence Shragge’s uncomplicated score echoes an entire era. “The Ranger” is a delight.

Abc Movie Special the Ranger, the Cook and a Hole in the Sky

(Thurs. (15), 8 -11 p.m., ABC)

Production: Filmed in British Columbia by Signboard Hill Prods. Inc. Executive producer, Richard Welsh; supervising producer, Andrew Gottlieb; producer, Brent Shields; director, John Kent Harrison; writer, Robert W. Lenski; based on the story "USFS 1919: The Ranger, the Cook and a Hole in the Sky" by Norman Maclean; camera, Henry Lebo; editor, Michael Ornstein; production designer, Douglas Higgins; sound, Eric J. Batut; music, Lawrence Shragge. Cast: Sam Elliott, Jerry O'Connell, Ricky Jay, Molly Parker, Don S. Davis, Robert Wisden, Michael Tayles, Tom Butler, Jay Brazeau, Callum Keith Rennie, Alan Peterson, Campbell Lane, Frank Cassini. Basing his script on a story by Norman Maclean, author of the book "A River Runs Through It," adapter Robert W. Lenski brings off a deceptively simple, plainly delightful telefilm that deserves more than a one-shot telecast. Hallmark Cards subsid Signboard Hill, resourceful director John Kent Harrison and his cast and crew have brought off a polished gem. Action's at a forest ranger station in Montana in 1919, where 17-year-old summer worker Mac (Jerry O'Connell) has been added to the crew of four who are setting off dynamite for some unknown reason. They're under the supervision of forest ranger Bill Bell (Sam Elliott), who has earned respect from his crew, including Hawkes the cook (Ricky Jay).

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