Tuesday, June 06, 2006


I've waited a few days before commenting on the PBS miniseries Texas Ranch House so that I could allow my ideas to percolate and I didn't just blurt out my first reactions. OK... the premise is sound. The idea was based on the current rage of "reality" shows... people placed in situations where they could show how they would cope with some historically challenging time. The best previous one was the show that carried a family back to Victorian England and had them live as they might have lived in Victorian England. Pretty good, but not terrible difficult. Perhaps the people could have made it more interesting, but it wasn't too terrible that the modern folks had to rough it without any podcasts or microwave ovens. OK. But this most recent offering was a modern family, the Cooks, who were suddenly thrust into rural Texas to make a cattle operation work with no skills, no real planning, no... no hunger for getting on top... none of the things that you still need to succeed in modern Texas, or modern Manhatten for that matter. And they had a cast of dopey teenagers with no personal discipline as workers. Historically accurate? Hell no.

I think that the failure of the ranch was not really a failure of the history component of the show as it was a failure of the PBS guys to cast the ensemble of players. They got a little middle class family of five yuppies to commit to a project that these folks obviously weren't committed to. This corporate type father manages hospitals most of the time, and he thought that management was management and he should be able to make a success of a cattle operation with the same set of skills that made him a hospital jockey. Not so. He couldn't hide in his office there at the ranch, he needed to get out and ramrod the untrained and unwilling workers... who were the only ones who blundered into a success, mostly by mistake and because they were driven by a desire to "become cowboys"... completely without any meanigful leadership... and they ended by becoming successful cowpokes even while they sealed the deadly failure of the Cooks.

Ah those Cooks. In my humble opinion, they had no business being out there in the Texas bushes ever... not then, not now, not ever. Mr. Cook was a nice guy but he had no stones. He kept sounding like a hospital middle manager, even when he was being a cattleman. He was always "addressing personnel issues" and "giving everyone an opportinity to contribute" What crap.

Like I said, the real failure is cultural and it is PBSs. Those Cooks represent the typical PBS liberal... ineffective, whiney, unable to dig in and win, unable to fight for what must be done. I know that sounds hard but I believe that I'm right. Maybe it's a mistake, but I want to think of how I would have done things differently. First of all, I would have made it clear that we were gonna be character perfect for the period. Backtalk the boss? What? I would have had a really good relationship with that crew boss. And we would have a clear and specific understanding between us... man to man. And we would represent the thinking head of a business machine. But I would be the boss and I would have the final say. If there were orders they would come from the both of us... and my wife would not really be a part of that. She would need to run the house.

Mrs. Cook had the peculiar idea that she could bring 2006 values into the post Civil War and that she would have some kind of role to play... and that people would fall into line just because she thought that they were supposed to. Well, OK. My grandmother was the wife of a Sumter County row crop farmer and she kept the books, and she kept his house in order, and he depended on her... and believe me, if you worked on that farm operation and didn't know that you should stay on her good side... then you were more than just stupid, you also had a death wish. But when my grandfather spoke she listened. Just like the foreman did. When you came down to it, he was the boss. The "he coon". And he was definitely the boss. Mr. Cook... he was a pussy. Hell, that wife of his couldn't even keep her own kitchen clean. That was a woman who definitely couldn't manage a household. She was what my grandfather called "a harpie" She had the peculiar idea that she had accomplished something when she had browbeaten that poor weak little Mr. Cook into doing something. What a maroon.

What else would I do? Well, I would have found a way to either kill those damned Indians, or have found a way to steal my guy back from them. Whatever it was, they would have wished that they had never laid their eyes on me. Think about it... that's what the real Texas settlers did. They killed those Indians as if there was no tomorrow. And... I would have made it very hard for anyone to lay around. It's the same as the Marine Corps lessons in leadership. You lead from the front. Lets get up boys, the sun is coming up, time to hit the trail. Follow me.

Did they fail? Yes. But the failure is mostly PBSs because they thought that people wanted to see how a group of typical PBS types, lazy, ineffectual, non-motivated, losers. In other words, just the kind of people that that the PBS leadership sees as their typical viewers. Says something about the liberal left, if you ask me.