Filmed in Sedona, Ariz., by Kushner-Locke Co., Moloney Prods. and Crystal Beach Entertainment. Exec producers, Peter Locke, Donald Kushner, Robert Moloney , Robert Lieberman; co-exec producer, Beau Bridges; producer, John Perrin Flynn; co-producer, Robert Dwer; director, Robert Lieberman; writer-creator, Moloney; “Harts of the West,” a fey account of a Chi salesman who buys a dude ranch in Arizona sight unseen, could fall into place with a lead-in like “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman”– if the series improves over the pilot. As it stands, new skein written by creator Robert Moloney kicks off with whimsical humor, awkward lapses and familiar situations.
After a mild heart attack, Dave Hart (Beau Bridges) tells wife Alison (Harley Jane Kozak) and their three kids that they’re moving to Arizona and the Flying Thunderbird Ranch, on which he has put a down payment. The family members — blossoming older son Zane Grey Hart (Sean Murray), spoiled daughter L’Amour (Meghann Haldeman, who gives her perf an amusing snootiness) and youngest son, eager John Wayne “Duke” Hart (Nathan Watt) are hardly thrilled.
Not surprising, the deserted ranch is a mess when they reach it. Dave gets shot at by the foreman, Jake Tyrell (Lloyd Bridges, slated for recurring appearances), before Alison and the kids show up. Their reactions to the dilapidated ex-rancho are mediocre comedy; the first chapter doesn’t burn up any laugh meter.
But Beau Bridges and Kozak do OK as city slickers confronted with discomforts. Director Robert Lieberman doesn’t demo much comedy timing, and the younger male actors play out their roles with little flair.
O-Lan Jones’ oversexed waitress Rose seems to have been written with little connection to the central story line; Saginaw Grant’s general storeowner-Indian is overdrawn.
Pilot looks OK, the music’s jake. The camerawork by James O’Dea succeeds, and Laurence Bennett’s design is good.
Series, now based in Canyon Country north of L.A. following the Arizona-filmed pilot, has been undergoing a strike since Sept. 13, when workers walked off the set after the production company refused to recognize the Intl. Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees as the crew’s representative.
Assuming the labor problems are settled and the series is given a stronger creative hand, it could hang in there indefinitely. Lloyd Bridges intros a good characterization, and Beau Bridges and particularly Kozak suggest there’s gold in them thar hills. Way down deep.