Synopsis by Hal Erickson
From the producers of Colonial House, this eight-part PBS miniseries took a family of contemporary California suburbanites and transplanted them to a reasonable facsimile of a "typical" Texas cattle ranch, vintage 1867. Patriarch Bill Cooke, in real life a hospital emergency-services administrator, donned the Stetson and buckskins of a 19th century Texas rancher, while his wife, Lisa, a part-time genealogist, laced herself into the corsets and calico of the standard-issue frontier spouse. Also going along for the ride were the Cookes' daughters, Vienna, Lacey, and Hannah, as well as Stanford University anthropology student Maura Finkelstein, who assumed the role of the Cookes' housekeeper. The ranch hands included a New Yorker of Puerto Rican heritage, a Mexican-American descended from a long line of "vaqueros," a cultural-diversity student, a journalist, a computer geek, a career soldier, and émigrés from Sweden and Great Britain. The producers saw to it that the denizens of the ranch lived under the exact conditions that they would have in the late 1860s, with all the hardships, deprivations, and insect infestations in full attendance. The menfolk were obliged to round up cattle and drive them to market, clear land, build fences, and break horses; the women were confined to the "traditional" household roles of the period, which led to a few flare-ups from the fiercely independent Cooke girls and budding-feminist Maura. There was even a Comanche raid in which one of the ranch hands was taken hostage -- with genuine Comanches reenacting the exploits of their ancestors (and griping about this latest encroachment of white people on their territory). Randy Quaid served as narrator for Texas Ranch House, which debuted in most U.S. markets on May 1, 2006.