Friday, December 9, 2016

What Might've Been: Johnny Ringo (1959)

It isn't often anymore that a show that generates decent or strong ratings doesn't return for another season.

Back in the early days of television, corporate sponsors controlled a lot of primetime shows, and if there was something they didn't like, they asked for the show to be cancelled, so long as the time slot could be refilled by another series they could get behind.

Such was the case with Johnny Ringo, the fictionalized account of a real life outlaw in the 19th century. Johnson Wax (now S. C. Johnson) was the sponsor, and decided they wanted a sitcom airing in Ringo's spot the next season, resulting in the series being cancelled when the network (CBS) couldn't find another spot and/or sponsor for it.

This itineration of Ringo came from the pen of no less than Aaron Spelling, who was just getting his feet wet in television. Spelling was commissioned by Dick Powell to develop the show for its star, actor-singer-songwriter Don Durant, who composed and sang the show's theme song, with the vocals playing over the closing credits.

In the series, Ringo was looking to leave his gunfighter past behind him and begin a new life. He's hired on as a sheriff in a small Arizona town overrun with corruption. This is all explained in the opener, "The Arrival", with James Coburn in an early role of his own.

Co-star Mark Goddard, of course, is better known for Lost in Space, and moved from Ringo to Robert Taylor's The Detectives.

Rating: A.


Mike Doran said...

Fun Fact:

I think it was after Dick Powell's death, that Four Star hit on the notion of syndicating nearly all their Western inventory in one big package, suitable for daily stripping.
The overall umbrella title was The Westerners: the contents included Zane Grey Theater, The Westerner, Law of The Plainsman, Johnny Ringo, and as many others as they could gather up.
In place of opening titles and intros, the shows were all introduced by a grizzled Keenan Wynn, who rode into Four Star's Western street, tied up his horse, walked into a saloon set, and delivered the episode intro.
At the finish, we're back in the saloon, where Wynn delivered the close, which always went something like this:
"Well ... it's always something ...
You (something having to do with the story), or you (something having to do with the ending) ...
... and then you (lesson to be learned) ...
... It's always like this - on The Westerners!"

One of our local stations ran this Western stew in the overnight hours for years (this was pre-MeTV/Get/Grit/cable and other such outlets). That's when I saw a lot of shows like this, years after their making.
Four Star' Old Hollywood style was fun to see, even 30-some years after the fact.
I wonder if The Westerners (or its component parts) are available nowadays ...

hobbyfan said...

I'm aware of the anthology format repackaging. Unfortunately, it wasn't airing as I was growing up. I would eventually see "The Westerner" on TV Land several years later. Thanks, Mike.