Ken Tucker
February 18, 1994 AT 05:00 AM EST

Despite the fact that this production is yet another shameless stylistic rip- off of Ken Burns’ The Civil War, Adventures of the Old West (Disney, March 1, 9-10 p.m.) is a frequently fascinating six-part documentary. Previous installments have profiled various Native American tribal chiefs and frontier scouts, and my favorite so far was a garrulous look at the California gold rush. I liked the way narrator Kris Kristofferson identified the start of the gold rush, in 1848, as ”the same year Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto was published,” as if there were some sort of geopolitical synchronicity at work there. And Kristofferson’s croaking of the gold-rush anthem ”Oh, California” to the tune of ”Oh! Susanna” suggests how playful a good documentary can be. Next week’s edition, ”Pioneers and the Promised Land,” sketches the lives of people who made perilous journeys west. Adventures of the Old West’s old-timey photographs and music, as well as the voice-over reading of diaries and letters to provide narrative drama, will remind you of The Civil War but won’t spoil Adventures’ own enlightening pleasures. B+

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