Hatfield’s and McCoy’s
No, the show is not over ( Part three airs tomorrow night and will apparently wrap things up) but I daresay that I’ve seen enough now to say something about it. This story is apparently one that exists at the forefront of The United State’s universal consciousness, it is a story that everyone knows, whether or not they’ve explicitly been told it; like how we all know the stories in the Bible regardless of whether or not we have read it or read anything into them.
The strange thing is that the story isn’t the same regardless of who you ask, specifically when you cross state lines down in the American South; one person may view it as the tale of a god-fearing little guy striving for the respect of the ‘man’ that he feels owed, others as that of a man who is beset on all sides by a band of no-good liars and thieves, parasites out to take what he has earnt. It’s like walking into your neighbors house to hear them telling their kids about the grievous acts of Goldilocks, who looted hard-working citizens homes of their food and the brave bears that stopped her in self-defense. The History Channel have then written themselves into something of a corner when they promised to deliver the definitive version of the story to our screens. How do you do that?
Firstly by sucking all of the fun out of it. Like Robin Hood the Hatfield/McCoy feud is a ‘true story’ in that it is one part true and one part story. Yes, there are facts, dates and figures that denote this as actually having happened, but it is the colorful string that storytellers singularly arrange in and around these immovable pegs as they tell the yarn that makes it one worth hearing. However in their impregnable conviction to present only the truth this is what History leaves out, reciting instead only those lines that can be fact-checked in triplicate. The story should be big and Shakespearean (one plot is quite literally Romeo and Juliet, word for word) but instead the show stands simply as a series of short two scene stories, vignettes of vendetta vengeance; each story ending the same way and over before it can begin to grow on you.
The second part of how they tell it is on the technical front. Here we see instantly that Hatfields is a bright and cleanly shot series with high production values that takes place in what seems to be a very unglamorourised version of the old West, one in which sex and death are open parts of the day to day. This might sound hypocritical, like these are two opposing qualities, but the fact of the matter is that they are actually more like two lacks. Hatfields is a high quality production but a strangely unstylised one at that, which ironically distinguishes it from most other modern westerns. A bit more grit or whimsy, a stronger commitment to one side or the other and it may have been something special; instead it has very little of interest in its aesthetics and because of that has very little impact on its audience.
Thirdly, and finally, I will just say they how they tell it is poorly, in a quite literal sense. Thanks to Game of Thrones there has been a lot of talk this week about TV budgets and although this show looks solid on the screen, like History threw HBO money at it, it feels cheaply written; on the outside it’s a feature, but underneath it is all made for TV movie. Of course money doesn’t correlate to quality writing, but that is still the sense that this show gave of, one of mediocrity. So much so that I’m wondering whether or not I am willing to watch the third part, because why bother? If though it blows me away I will be back to say so, otherwise take my silence as a word of warning to stay away from this one.