Earl Hamner Jr., creator of TV’s giant 1970s series “The Waltons” is credited as one among a clutch of exec producers of the Australian series “Snowy River: The McGregor Saga,” but his presence sure isn’t felt. Stagy, obvious and painfully old-fashioned under Marcus Cole’s lead-handed direction, opening chapter doesn’t bode well.
Story centers around 1880s local hero Matt McGregor (Andrew Clarke), rancher who’s known for having raced down a steep grade on horseback.
He owns a spread near dime-size Patterson’s Ridge, is widowed and has two sons and a daughter: the Rev. Colin (Brett Climo) living in town, Rob (Guy Pearce) and teenage Danni (Joelene Cmog
orac) living at home.
Matt goes to the rescue of widow O’Neil (Wendy Hughes) — back from England to reclaim her homestead — when smug, genteel Oliver Blackwood (John Stanton) wants her off the land. It’s a serviceable plot ploy — one of many cooked up by writer Peter Schreck — to tie up characters’ relationships.
Further complicating things, Matt’s newly arrived American nephew Luke (Josh Lucas) plots revenge on his uncle for a fancied slight against his father.
Clarke has a hearty approach to the dad’s role, and Climo, Pearce and Cmogorac all seem agreeable enough as the offspring and as sources of story material in future episodes. Hughes’ widow O’Neil has some conviction, and Douge’s Victoria is persuasive.
Most segs are determinedly stock, the situations predictable, and production designer Robert Perkins’ exteriors look exactly like sets.
Victoria Tennant is slated to land in the series in the future; that may give the program a leg up. For now, it certainly could use a John Boy.