The Barbary Coast starring Doug McClure and William Shatner

Pre-dating The Quest by one year was another failed TV Western series featuring a star of The VirginianBarbary Coast (1975) was set among San Francisco’s Barbary Coast in the 1880s. Doug McClure played casino owner Cash Conover, friend to undercover federal agent and master of disguise Jeff Cable (William Shatner).

Unlike Matheson and Russell who complimented each other on The Quest Doug McClure and William Shatner lacked chemistry and the show soon found itself losing viewers. A clumsy mix of The Wild Wild West and Mission Impossible, Barbary Coast was yet another victim of early cancellation with only 14 episodes completed.

The Quest starring Tim Matheson and Kurt Russell

In 1976 Tim Matheson and Kurt Russell starred in the short-lived TV Western The Quest. The YouTube introduction explains the premise of the series. I recall watching it on BBC 1 when suddenly it was removed from the schedules without explanation. The show had been cancelled mid-season. Apparently the British had a greater love for the TV Western than Americans in the mid-1970s.

This was an entertaining series with two up-and-coming actors and deserved a full season at least. But the TV Western was dying in America in favor of shows such as Charlie’s Angels, famous for the jiggle-factor and threadbare plots.

Whatever happened to the TV Western?

A quick glance of the new season sees yet another glut of police and lawyer shows. You know the formula. Dead body in the first five minutes followed by endless questioning, an autopsy or two, more questioning and the resolution. Yawn inducing just writing about it. We need someone to take a chance and produce a retro TV Western series. Not in the style of recent examples such as Deadwood. I found that far too negative and depressing. We need a series in the classic 1960s style. No sepia tones or cursing. We need positive, uplifting stories. We need heroes to return to TV. Not cynical. world weary anti-heroes in the Eastwood mold, but heroes in The Virginian or Cheyenne mold.

We all know the world has grown more cynical since the 1960s. But are we to expect decades of Law & Order and CSI spin-offs until we die? Some producer has to take a chance on another TV Western show that isn’t saccharin and isn’t cynical. A show that entertains in the classic Western style.