Pioneers of Television : Westerns (PBS)

A new four-part second season of Pioneers of Television began last week on PBS. The first subject was Science Fiction. This week it was Westerns. The format of the 50 minute show includes interviews with actors and actresses from key TV series in each genre. The main problem of the format is the limited coverage that ignores major TV shows. So this week the Westerns episode featured Bonanza, Gunsmoke, Maverick, The Rifleman, The Wild Wild West, The Big Valley, The High Chaparral and Daniel Boone. Missing from the discussion of the genre was The Virginian, Cheyenne, Rawhide, Laredo, Alias Smith and Jones etc. No mention of any Universal TV production indicates copyright restrictions for the low budget PBS network.

We did get to see interviews with many actors who have sadly passed away since the episode was filmed. Fess Parker, Robert Culp, Peter Graves, Stephen J. Cannell and rare film interviews with Mitch Vogel, Linda Evans, James Arness, Henry Darrow and Robert Conrad plus stars from Daniel Boone.

Definitely worth watching when it plays in your area.  But very frustrating to see The Virginian ignored.

Pioneers of Television PBS : Westerns

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.