Sunday, June 23, 2013

Classic TV: The Rifleman (1958)

Some might say that Chuck Connors made a wise decision by swapping baseball for Hollywood. But were it not for the success he enjoyed in five seasons of The Rifleman, maybe folks would be looking for his vintage baseball cards.

The Rifleman aired on ABC from 1958-63, with Connors in the title role as homesteader Lucas McCain, a widower raising his son, Mark (Johnny Crawford) all by himself. Justice was served with a rapid fire rifle, and the people of North Fork stopped short of nominating, if not appointing outright, McCain as sheriff. Then again, he did have a lot to do with revivng the career of Marshal Micah Torrence (Paul Fix), who became to Lucas what Commissioner Gordon was to Batman, a trusted ally, after taking office in North Fork in an early season 1 episode.

My first exposure to the series was when I was a wee lad, airing in the early afternoons in the days when local stations could program their networks' afternoon programming at their discretion, something that is back in effect now, after a fashion. I seem to recall Rifleman airing for a time on the local NBC affiliate of the period in back of the original Match Game. Today, Rifleman airs in a block of repeats on Saturday mornings on AMC, and 6 days a week on Me-TV. Sad to say, for those of you who are into studio logos, the Four Star banner has been cut from seemingly every print available, and the heirs to series producers Jules Levy, Arnold Laven, & Arthur Gardner are the rights holders to the series at present.

Here is the episode, "Day of the Hunter":

To prove that television was a funny business in the 50's, The Rifleman was spun off from Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre, which aired on CBS, and in turn, a backdoor pilot led to Law of the Plainsman airing on NBC instead of ABC. Go figure.

Rating: A.


magicdog said...

I've seen several episodes of this show and the chemistry between Connors and Crawford is amazing! You truly believe they are father and son.

Plus - Connors was hot!

The show was good but I get the feeling the show should have been longer - it always seemed the 30 minute episodes were too short.

hobbyfan said...

These were done-in-one stories most of the time, and to me 30 minutes might've been just enough.

The planned revival of the series has fallen through, BTW, something I should've mentioned in the original post.