Picks and Pans Review: Ned Blessing: the Story of My Life & Times
CBS (Wednesdays, 9 p.m. ET)
Trying to simulate the Old West success of its Dr. Quinn, CBS has dusted off a busted pilot from last summer, recast it and come up smelling like sage. With his chiseled good looks and quiet dignity, Brad Johnson, a former Marlboro Man, is the best TV cowboy in decades. (In the original pilot, Ned Blessing was played by the portly Daniel Baldwin, who looked silly in a five-gallon hat and profoundly uncomfortable in the saddle.)
Each episode begins with Blessing as an old one-armed man sitting in a jail cell, awaiting his own hanging (for an as yet unspecified murder) and recounting his adventures in Texas as a bandit turned sheriff. He has a mystic Mexican sidekick (Luis Avalos) and many enemies. Tim Scott, Wes Studi and Brenda Bakke costar.
Creator Bill Wittiiff, who adapted Lonesome Dove for TV, is a slow but flavorful storyteller. His yarns and colorful characters help make this five-week series as smooth and comfortable as old leather.