Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Tuesday's Overlooked TV: Klondike

I'd never heard of this mini-series that ran originally on the Discovery Channel until we came across the DVDs of it, but being a sucker for Northerns I had to get it and watch it, of course. It's very loosely based on actual incidents during the Yukon Gold Rush, but it takes so many liberties I think it would be best just to consider it historical fiction and evaluate it on that basis.

And my evaluation is, it's not bad. Not great, but certainly entertaining. It's the story of two young men from the east who head west to make their fortunes after graduating from college. They're likable sorts, and after a few minor adventures they wind up on their way to Alaska, where they travel over Chilkoot Pass with all the other gold-seekers on their way to Dawson on the Yukon River. When they get there, they'll encounter murder, romance, and adventure...not to mention Jack London.

Now, it just so happens I've written a novel with this same general setting and time period, so I know a little about it from my research. KLONDIKE gets quite a few things wrong, but what's the point of going into them? It's a good yarn, complete with stalwart heroes, despicable villains, colorful supporting characters, some humor, some tragedy, and lots of action. I'm fine with cutting it the same amount of slack I would for a big budget Hollywood historical from the Forties, which it resembles in a lot of ways.

It also resembles DEADWOOD quite a bit (I can just imagine some executive saying in a meeting, "Make it just like DEADWOOD, only different), which is another series that possesses only a nodding acquaintance with historical accuracy. KLONDIKE doesn't have the same level of writing and acting, but few series do.

The cast is mostly unknown to me, other than Tim Roth playing a slimy villain, as he usually does, Sam Shepard as an angst-ridden priest, and the fine character actor Tim Blake Nelson as one of the hero's sidekicks. But they all do decent jobs. The scenery, as you'd expect, is magnificent. The story does fall apart a little at the end, as it keeps going right on past several suitable conclusions and is less satisfying than it could have been.

All that said, I enjoyed KLONDIKE. Watching it made me want to read some Northerns again. I may just have to do that.


Victorian Barbarian said...

A blog post about "Northerns" would be interesting to some of your followers, I bet. For some reason, living where the West begins, especially in August, makes me like stories set up next to glaciers, especially the ones about living in the Ice Age. I wonder if some of that feeling would bleed over into the Northerns?

Joe Allegretti said...

I wonder what you think of the stories by James Hendryx that Altus Press is reprinting?

joe allegretti

James Reasoner said...

I've read very little by Hendryx, one novel (a Corporal Downey yarn) and a short story or two, but what I've read I liked a lot. I need to get those Altus Press volumes.