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Summer TV Sh*tshow -- Day One: "The Hatfields and McCoys"

By Dustin Rowles | TV | May 30, 2012 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | May 30, 2012 |

Summer TV Sh*tshow is a summer-long series in which we’ll document our viewing experiences of the worst that TV has to offer between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

The best thing to come out of watching the only hour of “The Hatfields and the McCoys” that I could stomach was the burst of nostalgia I got from The Lemonheads song my wife was playing the next morning.

“Why are you playing The Lemonheads?”

“It got stuck in my head because The Lemonheads lead singer Evan Dando use to date and collaborate with Juliana Hatfield who is a descendant of the Hatfields, which I found out on Wikipedia when I decided to read up on the Hatfield/McCoy feud instead of watching that terrible show you had on last night.”

Indeed, the Wikipedia entry on the Hatfields and McCoys is more factually accurate, far more compelling, and takes around five hours and 55 minutes less time to read than it would take to watch the entire six-hour miniseries that debuted on the History channel Monday night to a record-breaking 14 million viewers, the most watched non-sports cable show in history. I’d be surprised if half of that number stuck around for the second installment.

The miniseries features the talents of Bill Paxton and Kevin Costner. Costner’s career has been defined by two basic character types, the athlete and the cowboy, but he’s only ever been good at one of them and it’s not the cowboy. He’s terrible, wooden, and mollasses-like in his energy levels, and matters aren’t helped by a badly written script and Costner’s heinous Appalachia accent. The thing about accents in that part of the country is that they are thick to the point of parody, and Costner can’t muster much more than a wan Pennsyltucky accent. Paxton doesn’t fare much better, although where Costner underplays his character, Paxton manages to overplay his while still remaining stilted. It was when Paxton’s McCoy began weeping because his crazy wife wouldn’t let him “spill his seed inside her” that I gave up on the mini-series.

Indeed, besides Costner’s wooden acting, Paxton’s overacting, and the tepidly written script, it took half an hour before I could even figure out who was a McCoy and who was a Hatfield, and even then it took more effort than I was willing to muster for a summer miniseries to keep white men with shitty facial hair separated into their respective camps. Tom Berenger, who has crags so deep you could bury bodies in them, was the only thrilling presence as the Hatfield uncle who helped to provoke the feud by shooting a McCoy who accused him of fucking his dog. That fact I didn’t recall from the Bugs Bunny cartoon, although otherwise the Loony Tunes short packed all the essentials of the feud into a five minutes with far more entertainment value than I imagine the entire six-hour History miniseries will manufacture. There’s a part of me interested in the finer details of the Romeo and Juliet-like love tale that will eventually become the center of “The Hatfields and McCoys,” but based on the first hour of the miniseries, I’m not convinced they can bring much intrigue or excitement to that particular aspect, either.

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

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