21 September 2005 | Victor Field
A soppy but watchable farewell to Michael Landon.
Made with most of Michael Landon's usual behind-the-camera crew (except for composer David Rose, who had passed away the year before - Steve Dorff takes musical duties here), "Us," as has been documented elsewhere, was a 1991 pilot movie for a series that had been sold to CBS and which was only prevented from going ahead by Landon's untimely death that year. The pilot itself, though edging into stronger territory than he was associated with (which overlooks the fact that he starred in "I Was A Teenage Werewolf," as well as the darker episodes of "Little House on the Prairie" like the one with a faith healer who's unmasked as a fake when a boy he "cures" ends up dead), is at heart the story of three generations of a family getting to know each other, revolving around our hero (Landon) released from jail after 18 years for a crime he didn't commit, building his relationship with his dad and coming to grips with his own son.
Although it opens with a robber in drag being gunned down by the cops and later has a lady of the night who our hero befriends becoming the seventh victim of a serial killer (a plot thread which surprisingly doesn't become a major thrust), for the most part sleaze is kept at bay with character and emotion the real selling points. As usual, it's sentimental (especially the end), but never unwatchable, and it's to Landon's credit as a writer-director that it doesn't scream "pilot" at you the way some others of its ilk do.
You can see where this would have gone as a series; another look at people travelling across America and finding themselves, but at least this TV movie is far superior to the late Robert Urich's "Crossroads," which had a similar premise and did become a series. Not Landon's best, but watchable.