×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Virginian

Bill Pullman joins the ranks of first-time directors at TNT -- a list that includes Arnold Schwarzenegger and Tommy Lee Jones -- with this languid and reverential adaptation of Owen Wister's classic 1902 western novel about a mysterious and idiosyncratic horseman without an evident name.

With:
The Virginian - Bill Pullman Molly Stark - Diane Lane Steve - John Savage Sam Balaam - Dennis Weaver Rider - James Drury Judge Henry - Harris Yulin Trampas - Colm Feore

Bill Pullman joins the ranks of first-time directors at TNT — a list that includes Arnold Schwarzenegger and Tommy Lee Jones — with this languid and reverential adaptation of Owen Wister’s classic 1902 western novel about a mysterious and idiosyncratic horseman without an evident name.

It’s the fifth time “The Virginian” has been rendered to film (most famously in 1929 starring Gary Cooper and Walter Huston) and its second telling on TV (running as a weekly NBC western saga from 1962-71). This latest retelling is as comfortable as a well-worn boot.

For his first outing as a hyphenate (director-producer-star), Pullman shows an effortless grasp of a genre that TNT has single-handedly kept alive: the western. If Pullman looks a tad too slick to evoke a convincing pillar of cowboy morality, he balances it out with a steady, unforced performance and a directorial hand that illustrates sharp artistic instincts.

And this Pullman fella is no fool. Opposite his Virginian, he casts the seemingly ageless Diane Lane as his Molly Stark (a luminous frontier schoolteacher with willfulness to spare). The two show off an easy chemistry, made easier by the simple fact that Lane tends to make everyone and everything in her orbit look better (case in point: “Lonesome Dove”).

The smart casting decisions likewise extend beyond the prime leads and arouse a genuine sense of western history, with the players including Dennis Weaver, Harris Yulin, James Drury (TV’s original Virginian) and the superb John Savage.

Larry Gross’ adapted teleplay boasts of being more faithful to Wister’s original novel than its “Virginian” predecessors. But the story remains essentially the same: a Virginia man (Pullman) sets out from his native state in the 1890s and heads west to try his hand at carving a niche in the Wyoming Territory. He finds work as a ranch-hand, using it as the backdrop in his obsessive search for justice and righteousness.

The Virginian would find far more than he bargained for, including friends that betray him, evildoers who challenge his manhood and a woman whose love comes with strings of behavioral accountability attached. Both Colm Feore (as the wicked young cowpoke Trampas) and Dennis Weaver (as lily-livered villain Sam Balaam) contribute strong, colorful characterizations. And Lane inflects the part with a quiet, mesmerizing dignity.

Rick Roberts’ spare production design joins hands with the breathtaking countryside locale to further bolster “The Virginian,” which demonstrates that even in its fifth movie go-round a story can be made to feel fresh enough. Keep an eye on this Pullman kid. If he ever decides to quit his day job, he just might be able to make a go of directing.

The Virginian

TNT; Sun. Jan. 9, 8 p.m.

Production: Filmed in Wyoming by TNT. Executive producer, Daniel H. Blatt; producers, Lynn Raynor, Bill Pullman, Ruth Fainberg; co-producer, Grace Gilroy; director, Pullman; writer, Larry Gross; based on the novel "The Virginian: A Horseman of the Plains" by Owen Wister.

Cast: The Virginian - Bill Pullman Molly Stark - Diane Lane Steve - John Savage Sam Balaam - Dennis Weaver Rider - James Drury Judge Henry - Harris Yulin Trampas - Colm FeoreCamera, Peter Wunstorf; production designer, Rick Roberts; editor, Paul Trejo; music, Nathan Barr; sound, Garrell Clark; casting, Mary Vernieu, Anne McCarthy. 120 MIN.

More TV

  • Adam Lambert, of Queen, performs at

    Adam Lambert Back to 'Idol' to Mentor Finalists Through Queen's Catalog

    Adam Lambert famously launched his career on “American Idol” a decade ago performing a brilliant audition of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” He wrapped that amazing eighth season performing with the band on the season finale, and years later earned his current spot as the front man touring as Queen + Adam Lambert. On April 28, Lambert comes full circle as he steps [...]

  • Lily Tomlin SAG Lifetime Acheivement Award

    TV News Roundup: Netflix's 'Laugh-In' 50th Anniversary Tribute Sets Premiere Date

    In today’s TV News roundup, Netflix sets the premiere date for its 50th anniversary special of “Laugh-In.” DATES “Laugh-In: The Stars Celebrate,” the 50th anniversary tribute to the original series by Dan Rowan and Dick Martin, will premiere on Netflix on May 14. The special, which was taped at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, pays [...]

  • Texas Tech's Norense Odiase (32) shoots

    Live+3 Ratings for Week of April 8: NCAA Championship Game Dunks on Competition

    The final of the 2019 NCAA basketball tournament, in which Virginia triumphed over a spirited Texas Tech team, unsurprisingly finished way out in front in the Live+3 ratings for the week of April 8. Although the sports broadcast’s scripted competition made some gains, its 5.4 ratings still more than doubled that of “Grey’s Anatomy” in [...]

  • Mueller Report Release Draws 11 Million

    Mueller Report Release Draws 11 Million Total Viewers Across TV News

    Coverage of the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report into whether President Donald Trump committed obstruction of justice unsurprisingly caused a ratings bump across TV news yesterday. In terms of overall viewership, around 11 million people tuned in to see Attorney General William Barr’s news conference regarding the report’s release, and the news coverage surrounding it. According [...]

  • Neilsons Measurment Problems TV Digital

    WarnerMedia Pulls Out of Audience-Targeting Alliance Open A.P.

    WarnerMedia is going its own way when it comes to helping advertisers find specific groups of TV-watchers. The company, a founding member of the audience-targeting media alliance known as Open A.P., said Friday it would withdraw from the group, citing its desire to pursue its own strategy under owner AT&T. AT&T purchased Time Warner in [...]

  • BLESS THIS MESS - "The Chicken

    Listen: Lake Bell, Dax Shepard on Returning to Broadcast TV With 'Bless This Mess'

    Welcome to “TV Take,” Variety’s television podcast. In this week’s installment, Variety’s executive editor of TV, Daniel Holloway, chats with Lake Bell and Dax Shepard, stars of ABC’s “Bless This Mess,” which debuted on Monday. The show centers around a newly married couple, played by Bell and Shepard, who decide to ditch their shoebox New York City [...]

  • superstore renewed season 3

    'Superstore' Showrunner Justin Spitzer Steps Down as He, Gabe Miller, Jonathan Green Renew Overall Deals at UTV

    “Superstore” executive producers Justin Spitzer, Gabe Miller and Jonathan Green have all renewed their overall deals with Universal Television. In addition, Miller and Green will take over showrunner duties on “Superstore” while Spitzer — who also created the series — will shift to develop new projects for the studio beginning with the 2019-2020 season. “I [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content