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The Hatfields & McCoys

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The Hatfields & McCoys, The 19th-century conflict between the Hatfield and McCoy families became the definitive feud of American history. To this day it provides a shorthand way of describing a hate-laced, unbending, seemingly endless battle between two groups. But what in fact happened between the Hatfields and McCoys?

The History channel offers a very long answer with the three-part miniseries “Hatfields & McCoys,” starring Kevin Costner as “Devil Anse” Hatfield and Bill Paxton as Randall McCoy, the patriarchs of the feuding clans. It airs 9 p.m. Monday, 9 p.m. Tuesday and 9 p.m. Wednesday. History has also tied other programs to the Hatfields/ McCoys theme, including back-to-back episodes of “Pawn Stars” airing at 8 p.m. Monday.

Costner, who is also a producer of the series, has demonstrated a need to take lots of time to tell a story, and “Hatfields & McCoys” follows that pattern. At times, it seems as if the program is going to last as long as the decades consumed by the real-life feud.

But that time demonstrates how pervasive, and complicated, were the events in the feud. Not only did they involve two large families, but also lawyers, judges, at least one minister, the governors of two states and the U.S. Supreme Court. Periods of seeming peace would end suddenly in capricious bloodletting. (CBS News reported a few years ago on a rare disease afflicting the McCoys, which may have caused some “hair-trigger rage and violent outbursts.”) And when one side was attacked, the other had to respond in kind.

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