Heartland aired from March until July 1989 on CBS.
B.L. McKutcheon ( Brian Keith) was the Nebraska cornfields version of Archie Bunker-a cranky opinionated , but somehow lovable bigot-in this labored 1980's version of All in the Family meets The Real McCoys. A widower who's farm had been taken over by the bank when he couldn't keep up the payments , B.L. had moved in with his daughter , Casey and her family. Although he loved Casey ( Kathleen Layman) and doted on his grandchildren, B.L. just couldn't seem to get along with his son-in-law Tom ( Richard Gilliland). The oldest of the Stafford children , Johnny ( Jason Kristofer), was a TV addict who wanted desperately to move to Southern California; Gus ( Devin Ratray) was a stereotypical if incredibly clumsy, young farm boy; and Kim ( played by Brian Keith's daughter Daisy Keith) was their intellectual adopted Asian daughter.
In a sad set of circumstances Daisy Keith shot and killed herself on April 17, 1997. Two months later her father, famed actor Brian Keith, who was also suffering from emphysema and lung cancer shot and killed himself as well.
A Review from The New York Times
a Lovable Bigot
By JOHN J. O'CONNOR
Published: March 20, 1989
For ''Heartland,'' at 8:30 P.M., think of Archie Bunker being shipped out to Nebraska farm country. He is now being played by Brian Keith and is called B. L. McCutcheon -grumpy, ornery and, you'd better believe it, thigh-slappingly cute. Having lost his own farm, B. L. now lives with his daughter, Chris (Kathleen Layman), and her husband, Tom (Richard Gilliland). B. L. doesn't have much use for Tom but is partial to his three grandchildren: Johnny (Jason Kristopher), who would rather live in swank Beverly Hills; Kim (Daisy Keith), an adopted Vietnamese child (who is indeed Mr. Keith's real-life daughter), and clumpy Gus (Devin Ratray), whose best friend is an enormous sow.
B. L can be trying when he sounds off about big-city folk, including Jane Fonda, of course. But this series, created by Don Reo, comes with the always promising imprint of a Witt-Thomas Production (''Golden Girls,'' ''Beauty and the Beast''). Moving away from television's standard suburban setting for sitcoms, the series manages to find a laugh or two in the most unlikely situations, including attempts by a greedy banker to get the family farm for an agricultural conglomerate. There is even a tornado (''God's way of telling people not to live in trailer parks,'' one family member notes). Checking on the house the next morning, Tom announces, ''It's still here, but there's a dead witch under the house and everything's in color.'' Maybe ''Heartland'' could turn out to be lovable after all. It beats peeping-tom training.
A Review from USA TODAY
TV PREVIEW/BY MONICA COLLINS
'Heartland': Unfunny farm
If you watch TV comedy, you'd think the whole world consisted of suburban living rooms, glass offices, city apartments or the Cheers bar. So a sitcom set on a farm is a decent idea.
But the farm setting is the only decent idea in this pig slop of a sitcom.
Here the producers and writers have a rich and unique venue to work with. Instead of mining it, the jokes consist mainly of stupid toilet titters and silly xenophobic references to New York City and Los Angeles.
Except for one kid, a bumbling animal lover ( played by Devin Ratray), no one in this show seems engaging or genuine.
Brian Keith plays the patriarch . And like most of the older men in TV comedies, he's a " gruff but lovable"cliche. He makes all these grumblings around his son-in-law , Tom ( played by Richard Gilliland) and presumably, that will be one source of tension week after week ( or at least until this is canceled).
Tom's wife is your standard brand mom, trying to keep the peace in her feisty household. And the other two kids are weird. The teenage son is depicted as an L.A. groupie whose most memorable line is " Gee, I have to take a wicked whiz." And the adopted Asian daughter ( Daisy Keith) doesn't say much. When she does open her mouth, she sounds like Betty Boop on helium.
Then there's the mean banker. He hovers around hoping that the farm goes under.
Heartland is heartless. It takes a good-hearted setting and then turns farmers into fools. There's no possible excuse for this to be on the air, none whatsoever.
CBS should be ashamed to throw us this cow pie. Heartland should buy the farm immediately.
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