CBS (Sun., April 13, 9 p.m. ET)
It would be easier (and quicker) to walk across the Rockies yourself—four or five times, fighting off Indian and Mexican warriors, winters and starvation—than it would be to watch Richard Chamberlain doing all those things in Dream West, the dullest miniseries I’ve seen since A.D. or The Mystic Warrior. Chamberlain plays John Charles Fremont, the American explorer who mapped the West, took California away from Mexico, was tried for mutiny and ran for President (against James Buchanan). So it’s amazing that the producers managed to make his life and his era so intolerably tedious. Chamberlain’s speeches are something you should hear coming from a dummy in a wax museum: “The future is in the West! That’s where the dream is, the promise!” Alice (Chariots of Fire) Krige, as his wife, gets lines too idiotic even for North and South: “Papa, slavery makes bad table talk!” And Rip (Cross Creek) Torn as Chamberlain’s guide, Kit Carson, says things that would make the Lone Ranger and Tonto heigh-ho and ride away: “I do believe that squaw with the claw necklace has her eye on you!” The characterizations are as well drawn as a preschooler’s coloring book, and the story line quickly falls apart. But the actors do try, which makes Dream West all the more tragic. Chamberlain looks as if he wants to just hop on a jet to the West Coast and quickly end these three nights and seven hours of agony. Krige quivers her lips and heaves her bosom and tries to look lusty for her husband—but the pair still appear as uncomfortable as a blind date at the prom. Torn gives his part all the enthusiasm a mortal could muster. But these fine actors are trapped in a slow, Sisyphean climb to nowhere.