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.

Author: PGreen

Published work in U.S.A. for McFarland & Co. Inc. : A History of Television’s The Virginian 1962-1971 (2006, 2009 Softcover edition) Pete Duel : A Biography (2007, 2009 Large Print edition; Kindle edition) Encyclopedia of Weird Westerns (2009) Jennifer Jones : Life and Films (2011)

26 thoughts on “The Quest starring Tim Matheson and Kurt Russell”

  1. I guess us old folks don’t have much influence regarding what is on TV or movies. Too bad, since lots of us are living longer and are somewhat awake and alert!

    1. LOL. It’s all about the advertisers (sponsors) Mary. They control US TV. Programing is based on targeting prime age groups with purchasing power. The viewer is the potential consumer. Older folks are pushed to one side as irrelevant – unless you watch CNN – where most advertising is aimed at retirees. Youngsters don’t watch the news apparently.

  2. Another good western series from back in the 1970’s was ‘How The West Was Won’ which ran on ABC and starred James Arness. It started as a mini-series and then became a regular series in early ’79 with a two hour running time. I believe that it did well in the ratings so not sure why ABC cancelled it at the end of the season.

    1. Yes I remember the mini-series Jim. It was impressive. I also enjoyed “The Chisholms” from the late 1970s. Another Western mini-series that evolved into a short-lived series. Little did we know at the time that these shows marked the end of an era. The few Westerns produced in the 1980s and 90s didn’t have the same production values as those produced in the 60s and 70s. Too much emphasis on “reality’ and muted tones.

  3. The rapid decline and poor state of television western series by the 1990’s can be summed up in one title. ‘Dr Quinn, Medicine Woman’.

  4. Paul,
    I only recently discovered this blog despite having read your Virginian book about a year and a half ago. I was somewhat too young to have watched and appreciated ‘The Virginian’ during the majority of its network run. I don’t think it was until around 1969 that I started watching “grownup” TV so I really only got to watch it during the last couple of seasons. I sort of came to television westerns during their last gasp of relevancy (the last six years of ‘Gunsmoke’, ‘Alias Smith and Jones’, ‘The High Chaparral’, ‘Lancer’, the last seasons of ‘Bonanza’, etc.) as well as those that came later on. Of course the classic 50’s and 60’s westerns were a staple of re-runs all during my youth and were widely seen in syndication well into the 1980’s so I got my fill of those in addition. Unfortunately ‘The Virginian’ was one of the few that was rarely shown in syndication (I’m sure due to the 90 min running time) and so my memory of it was very hazy. That is until I purchased your book which I enjoyed immensely. It was several months after getting the book that Encore Westerns announced they’d be adding ‘The Virginian’ to their daily lineup and I can’t tell you how thrilled I was by that news. I even shortened my New Year’s Eve plans so as to be home and watch the ‘The Virginian’ marathon into the wee hours of the morning! It has been a great time re-discovering this series and so much of that is due to your terrific book. I particularly love the extensive glossary of directors, writers, cinematographers, and composers who worked on the show, something many other television reference books give short shrift to.
    I wonder if you might share with the readers of this blog any current projects you are working on and when we can expect a new book?
    Thanks again. Jim.

    1. Thanks for your kind words Jim. I’m glad you enjoyed my book. I began watching TV Westerns at a very young age. Cheyenne and Wagon Train were my favorite shows of the early 1960s. And like you I enjoyed all the 1960s shows you mention including The Monroes and The Big Valley.
      I have just completed my latest book for McFarland on “The Life and Films of Jennifer Jones.” That will be published next year. Most likely in the spring.
      McFarland want me to write a book on TV Westerns. I’m still undecided on the project as the subject has been covered by other authors.

  5. Thanks for the update, Paul. I look forward to the forthcoming Jennifer Jones book and I’m going to order the Pete Duel book very shortly.
    I’ve found many of the books on television westerns disappointing as they tend to heavily cover the early years while everything after 1965 or so is given only a brief mention, usually only in the context of “the western was dying out”. Maybe a book on the period of TV western from the mid sixties onward would make a good project.

    1. I agree Jim. Get to around 1966 and the information tails off in many books. Series such as Maverick and Bonanza have been documented to such a large extent it’s pointless writing about them again. But shows such as the High Chaparral, Custer, The Monroes, Shane and Lancer for example have been neglected.

      Hope you enjoy my Pete Duel biography. It includes contributions from James Drury and Sara Lane, where they talk about working with Pete Duel.

  6. ‘THE QUEST’ was such a wonderful show. Tim and Kurt were perfect, and it would be easy to believe they were brothers. The storyline was unusual, and showed great respect for the Native Americans. Something not so common back then.
    I would love to have this on DVD.

    1. Yes Bob, I’ve seen the compilation film on cable. It isn’t bad but I’d prefer to see the episodes in their original form.

  7. I was an American teenager (female) in Germany with my military father and remember not ever missing an episode. Show was interesting however, the main reason was Kurt Russell was gorgeous & Tim pretty handsome. Somethings in life you will NEVER forget.

    1. From fan mail I know how popular Westerns are in Germany Mary. Especially The Virginian. I always preferred Tim Matheson on The Quest. But I know Kurt Russell has his female fans. 🙂

  8. I’ve always been a western fan ever since I was a little girl, and even more avidly now that I’m getting older. (I’m 21, btw) However, I didn’t even know “The Quest” existed until the last month or so when I started looking into Tim Matheson’s filmography… Which also led me to his episodes of “The Virginian.” I think he’s absolutely adorable!

    Anyways, after finding out about the show, I also found all the episodes on Youtube, and have been watching them. I only have one left, and for the most part I have really enjoyed it. I also agree they should do a DVD release. I’m sure there would be a market for it, especially because of Kurt Russell… even though I’m obviously more into Tim Matheson myself. lol.

    1. Great to hear from a younger fan Livvie. Yes I also like Tim Matheson (but not in an adorable way! LOL). You’d like his final season “Bonanza” episodes as well.

      1. I have seen a few of those. Someone had uploaded them to youtube as well. I saw “had” because just about any and all Bonanza episodes uploaded by anyone have been removed as of 3 days ago. Pity too, because there were a lot of Adam episodes I wanted to catch up on. Haha.

        I did enjoy the Griff character very much, though, and I do believe I got to see most of the ones that centered on him. It’s too bad the series couldn’t have held on a little longer, because TM really was a great addition to the cast.

      2. “Bonanza” still had life left in it when it was canceled Livvie. It was certainly producing better episodes than “Gunsmoke” which was allowed to continue.
        Griff was a good addition but Tim Matheson had the habit of being brought in to revive ratings. I still think he deserved to be carried over into “The Men From Shiloh.”

  9. Livvie,
    I didn’t know THE QUEST was on ‘youtube’. Thank you!
    I remember what a shock it was to see Kurt Russell like that. Hot, hot, hot!! Last thing I’d seen was ‘The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes’ or any of those other Disney ‘pre teen’ things he did.

    Watching the last run of The Virginian episodes on EncoreWestern, I saw the one where Tim came. He and Leslie Nielson are just the cutest things together! It’s an adorable, very touching episode.

    I missed Steve, and Randy when they left. I most certainly did NOT miss Stacey Grainger. But Tim was a wonderful character, and had some of the best storylines.

    I’ll have to check out those QUEST episodes on ‘youtube’. I’ve always hoped for DVDs, but few 15 episode shows get made into DVDs. From the moment I saw Tim on there I’ve been in love with him ever since. Even when he’s bad on BURN NOTICE, I love him.

    1. Yes it’s great to see these episodes. They must have placed on YouTube recently as last time I looked there was very little on the show available.
      They were still making some good Western shows in the mid 1970s but sadly the audience in America drifted away. But this show was very popular in the UK at the time and I was sad to see it canceled prematurely.

  10. Hi Paul,
    I just found your website/blog. Thanks for all the information. I agree with Kate and Livvie and you that the Quest was a wonderful show and, in my opinion, it could easily have run for several seasons if given a chance. I just discovered it for the first time a few weeks ago and have been watching the episodes.

    Kurt Russell and Tim Matheson were so good together in the Quest, I was wondering what are the chances of them ever making a buddy, action type movie together now? They are both still acting and they are both popular and I recall reading that they are friends. That would be something. How do their fans communicate that suggestion to them?

    Thanks again for this great site.

    1. That’s a great idea Barb. Tim Matheson seems to be involved more in directing than acting these days but he has made guest appearances on a few USA network shows recently (as well as directing them). Not much fans can do other than suggest a reunion of sorts at a convention one of them might be attending.

      Glad you like my website/blog.

  11. I recall some at NBC considered “The Quest” too violent. Despite it’s quality, big-screen look the low ratings combined with what could be controversial, i.e., TV violence, could easily make “The Quest” a quick cancellation.
    Producer David Gerber complained how expensive it was to do a western because all the local locations had been developed and the rental rolling stock outfits and experienced cowboy extras had disappeared, but no doubt he would have loved a full season.
    Back in first run I had the opportunity to twice see the full pilot with Susan Dey as the white raised by Indians and whom the Beaudine brothers thought might be their sister. I really liked it. What a total scumbag Dennis Cole played, as the pimp who recruited Susan for his “stable”.
    The two leads, Kurt and Tim, worked well together.
    Great main title theme.
    As “Lancer” producer Alan Armer said about the lack of success of his show, “If only we’d launched a decade earlier when westerns still mattered” could apply to “The Quest’s” lost potential in 1976.

    1. Yes I liked “The Quest” and saw the pilot again a few years ago. Great theme tune. I was surprised when it failed – but the mid-70s saw Westerns in decline, no matter the quality. The TV executives wanted cop dramas or the “jiggle factor”. 🙂

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