Welcome to our guide to must-see TV.
Here’s our weekly overview of choice options for home-screen viewing. (Note: All times listed are Eastern.)
The first of five notable westerns that paired James Stewart with director Anthony Mann, this gritty 1950 drama focuses on Lin McAdam (Stewart), a steely-eyed sharpshooter who traverses the Wild West of 1876 while obsessively pursuing outlaw Dutch Henry Brown (Stephen McNally) — who just happens to be his brother. At one point, the two antagonists compete in a Dodge City shooting contest for a prized Winchester rifle under the watchful eye of Wyatt Earp (Will Geer). McAdam wins, but Dutch Henry is a poor loser — he steals the rifle from his brother, setting into motion a chain of violent events as the Winchester continues to change hands, moving from a tinhorn gunrunner (John McIntire) to a renegade Indian warrior (Rock Hudson) to a cruelly cunning bandit (Dan Duryea). (11:55 pm Monday, Encore Westerns)
Real-life father and son Donald and Kiefer Sutherland are perfectly cast as a frontier preacher and his prodigal offspring in John Cassar’s terrifically entertaining old-fashioned western. Kiefer plays John Henry Clayton, a notorious gunslinger who returns to his Wyoming hometown several years after his Civil War service. During the time since his military discharge, John Henry has acquired a well-earned reputation as a fearsomely efficient shootist. And despite his announced intention to hang up his guns, just about everyone in town — but especially his preacher father, the Rev. William Clayton (Donald) — doubts that he has mended his ways. Brian Cox co-stars as the foul-mouthed, land-grabbing villain who forces the preacher’s son to raise some vengeful hell. (8:15 am Tuesday, Showtime)
Duel at Diablo
Eager to avoid typecasting, James Garner avoided roles in westerns for years after he checked out of Maverick. When he finally did get back in the saddle for this 1966 action-adventure, he was dead-serious as Jess Remsberg, a former army scout in grim pursuit of the varmint who killed his Indian wife. Capably directed by Ralph Nelson (Lilies of the Field), Duel at Diablo co-stars Bill Travers (Born Free) as an ambitious Cavalry lieutenant, Bibi Andersson as a frontier woman who’s not entirely grateful for being freed from captivity by an Apache tribe, and Dennis Weaver (Gunsmoke, McCloud) as the woman’s less-than-supportive husband. But the real scene-stealer is Sidney Poitier, who comes off as the epitome of self-assured cool as a high-stakes gambler and seasoned horse-breaker who doesn’t aim to please. (1:05 am Friday, Encore Westerns)
Ride with the Devil
Directed with rousing vigor and meticulous precision by Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk), Ride with the Devil takes a refreshingly unconventional approach to constructing a Civil War epic. Instead of focusing on massive military clashes — the attacks and counterattacks that take up so much time in more traditional stories about the War Between the States — Lee and screenwriter James Schamus get up-close and intimate in their vividly detailed adaptation of Woe to Live On, Daniel Woodrell’s novel about the guerrilla warfare waged by pro-Southern Bushwhackers against Union sympathizers along the Kansas-Missouri border. Tobey Maguire (Spider-Man) stars as Jake Roedel, the Missouri-raised son of a German immigrant, who gets swept up in the campaign against “Yankee aggressors.” Like too many other young men in too many other wars, Jake sees too much, and grows up too fast. And somewhere along the way, he loses faith in the very things that made him go to war in the first place. (6:40 pm Saturday, Encore Westerns)
All nine episodes (including the pilot) of the criminally short-lived 2003 series about Wild West crime-fighting are available for binge streaming on Hulu. Set in 1880s Colorado, the consistently well-crafted drama — aptly described by one critic as “Gunsmoke meets CSI” — stars Tom Berenger (Hatfields & McCoys) as Marshal Jared Stone, a veteran lawman who’s tough enough to handle almost any challenge, but also wise enough to recognize that times are changing. To help him take advantage of fingerprint comparisons, ballistics testing and other advances in his field, he relies (albeit sometimes reluctantly) on help from two allies: Larimer Finch (Peter O'Meara), a Scotland Yard-trained former Pinkerton agent, and Katie Owen (Amy Carlson of Blue Bloods), a local mortician who moonlights as a pathological examiner.