''Lonesome Dove'': Modern TV classic -- The mini-series beat expectations when it first aired in 1989
Since CBS is now presenting Lonesome Dove as a modern television classic, it bears remembering that when the miniseries premiered in February 1989, no one, least of all its network, expected it to be such a hit. Westerns had been out of fashion for decades, and executive producer Suzanne de Passe had trouble raising interest and money for the project. Dove offered stars no brighter than Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones — first-rate actors, but second-rate audience draws. Add to all this the waning popularity of miniseries, and Dove seemed doomed. But a marvelous combination of factors — the excellence of the cast (which also included Danny Glover, Rick Schroder, Robert Urich, Diane Lane, and Anjelica Huston); the cliché-busting nature of Larry McMurtry’s source novel; the elegant, spare direction of Simon Wincer — assured an audience of millions that the Western was not dead. Now, with the series’ first rerun, you can relive the experience; it wasn’t a hollow one, or a hype.