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Sunday, March 9, 2014

FAVORITE WESTERN TV SERIES: LANCER! by CHERYL PIERSON


Remember those wonderful TV western series of the 50's, 60's and 70's? What was your favorite? There were so many fantastic shows on during those years I'm hard put to pick ONE favorite, but if I had to it would probably have to be LANCER. Lancer was created by Samuel A. Peeples. It’s one of those shows that didn’t last long enough, but still has many, many followers in the fan fiction world who continue to write stories using these characters in just about every scenario you can imagine. If you’ve never explored fan fiction, it’s pretty amazing, and there’s a fan fiction group for virtually every movie and TV series that ever came down the pike.


But what can be more exciting to a pre-teen girl than an action–packed TV western with two handsome hunky guys and a ton of family angst? The answer is…not one thing. I was glued to the TV screen every week when Lancer took off, and it was a very, very sad day when they cancelled it.Here’s a bit about Lancer, which was, then, and still is, my favorite TV western ever—and that’s saying a lot, since I was a diehard western fan from a very early age.


Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about it, in a nutshell, just so you can get the gist of the series:

Lancer is an American Western series that aired on CBS from September 1968, to May 1970. The series stars Andrew Duggan, James Stacy, and Wayne Maunder as a father with two half-brother sons, an arrangement similar to the more successful Bonanza on NBC.

Duggan stars as the less than admirable Murdoch Lancer, the patriarch of the Lancer family. Stacy appears as half-Mexican gunslinger Johnny Madrid Lancer. Wayne Maunder was cast as Scott Lancer, the educated older son (though he is younger than Stacy) and a veteran of the Union Army, in contrast to Stacy's role of former gunslinger. Paul Brinegar also appeared as Jelly Hoskins, a series regular from season two after making a one off guest appearance during the first season. Elizabeth Baur (who later replaced Barbara Anderson in 'Ironside' from season five to eight) also was a series regular cast member as Murdoch Lancer's ward Teresa O'Brien.

Guest stars included Joe Don Baker, Scott Brady, Ellen Corby, Jack Elam, Sam Elliott, Bruce Dern, Kevin Hagen, Ron Howard, Cloris Leachman, George Macready, Warren Oates, Agnes Moorehead and Stefanie Powers.

Lancer lasted for fifty-one hour-long episodes shot in color. The program was rerun on CBS during the summer of 1971.

The episode entitled "Zee" with Stefanie Powers earned scriptwriter Andy Lewis the Western Writers of America "Spur Award", the first ever designated for a television script.


Pretty impressive! With the regular cast and the very solid and vivid portrayals each of them gave of their characters, and the stellar roster of guest stars, what’s not to love? I was eleven when LANCER made its appearance, and I thought I had never seen anyone as “cute” as half-brothers Johnny and Scott Lancer. But “cuteness” was not what held my interest.

As the storyline went, Scott’s wealthy mother took him back to Boston, and he was raised as a moneyed gentleman. He served in the Civil War. Johnny’s story was different. His mother took him south of the border, to the territory she was most familiar with, and he was raised in border towns. Life was tough for him, being half-white, and as we say here, “the boy run into some trouble.” So much trouble, in fact, that the Pinkerton man Murdoch Lancer sent to find him barely got there in the nick of time, as Johnny was facing a firing squad.

Murdoch offered his sons “listening money”—to come meet him, hear what he had to offer them, and then stay, or walk away. Of course, both Johnny and Scott decide to stay after this stormy encounter. Take a look here, at the trailer CBS put together for their star show!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IhWUqLiNWLY

The mix of the characters, with Johnny having fended for himself most of his life, earning his living as a fast gun, and Scott being raised with everything money could buy, added to every plot and their general interaction. Scott had known hard times too, during the War, and he had to remind his younger brother of that from time to time. But their growing relationship as brothers, and the respect that they had for one another – and in time, for their father, was what made the show special. Growth of the characters and the way that growth was portrayed kept me glued to the screen week after week—though I couldn’t have told you that’s what it was at that age.

The show is not in syndication here in the States, at last check, but don’t despair! Here’s a link where you can catch season one, at least!

http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLB278C1B669BEA738

Johnny Lancer has been a “main character” in my imagination from the time I first saw the show. He’d lived a hard life, done some bad things, but was trying to make amends and have the life with a true family that he’d always wanted…and a place to belong. He was the youngest in his family, and so was I. His character portrayal resonated with audiences everywhere, so it was quite a surprise to learn that the show was being canceled. Yet, today, there are still people who love the show and get together online to chat about it and the characters, and write more stories about them—many of which would make fantastic Lancer episodes if the show was still being written.

Do you have a memory of Lancer? Please share if you do, or let us know what YOUR favorite western series was! And if you don’t remember Lancer,don’t hesitate to click those links above and see what you missed!

18 comments:

  1. I never saw Lancer, but it sounds like a fantastic show. Between 1968 and 1970 I was in Nebraska and then married and moved to Texas. I was so busy being in love and socialising I missed a lot of TV. I'm going to check out the links you posted, watch some episodes, and most likely mourn the loss of a great TV western, albeit, a bit late.
    My favorite TV western was Maverick. Again, there were brothers involved along with many quotes from their "Pappy". I thought Wagon Train was good because the stories revolved around different people traveling in the wagon train so you never knew what the outcome was going to be. Sometimes the good guy died.
    Well I think I'm going to enjoy checking out your links today. Wish I had some popcorn. As always, I enjoyed your post today, Cheryl.

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    1. Sarah, I'm glad you are going to have a restful Sunday. There's no better way to do it than sitting back and watching some hot guys in a brand new (to you) western. I wish you had some popcorn, too! But just think, when you get your new computer you will be able to see it on a bigger screen and maybe then you'll have popcorn. I know you'll want to watch some of these episodes over again. LOL Another couple of favorites were Rawhide and The Rifleman.
      Cheryl

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  2. Somehow I missed Lancer. My favorite would have to be Have Gun - Will Travel, closely followed by Maverick. I liked the mystery elements of Have Gun - Will Travel, and the comedy of Maverick. Both were bad boys in their own ways. I do hope Lancer comes out soon in DVD.

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    1. I loved Have Gun--Will Travel. You have always loved mysteries, haven't you, Livia! LOL Yes, Maverick was awesome too. So many good westerns "back in the day"--thank God for reruns, right?
      Cheryl

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  3. Knew of the show and watched a bit. I have a friend who refuses to miss the re-runs of High Chaparral. For myself I seemed to like the off-beat, Branded, Wanted: Dead or Alive and some other obscure short lived shows. Even like "The Deputy". But if is was a western, I had to give it a try. (Of course I'm old enough to remember The Cisco Kid and others of that time.) *Grin* Doris

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    1. Doris, I absolutely loved High Chaparral. I knew I was in love with Billy, but ...a little piece of my heart was always with Manolito, too, because I loved the way he was so happy-go-lucky until you crossed him, and then that smile could turn deadly and he was one dangerous hombre. Billy always just seemed too naïve to me, even as a young girl. I loved Branded, too. What a great theme song! One thing about the shows back then, they had some wonderful music to accompany the shows, including the theme songs.
      Thanks for coming by today!
      Cheryl

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  4. I've never heard of "Lancer", but then I was 2 when it came out. I remember watching "The Big Valley" and "Alias Smith...", I can't remember the full name now. I didn't grow up loving westerns. My mom was a huge "Star Trek" fan so I was raised on sci-fi.

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    1. Kristy, it's not too late!!! LOL Thank goodness for film, right? Oh, yes, Alias Smith and Jones. How I loved that show. I actually got to meet Ben Murphy one year--he came to OK City and signed autographs, and it was not too long after Pete Duel shot himself. Even as a young girl, I was kind of put off by the fact that Ben M. was "going through the motions"--we had driven over an hour to get there and stood in line, etc. and he had nothing to say to anyone. But looking back, I guess it was because of the timing of his signing in conjunction with his co-star's death. I was a huge Star Trek fan, too. I have the boxed set. LOVE that show, even now!
      Cheryl

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  5. Cheryl, you know I'll have to check out these episodes, now. For me it was Bonanza. I started out in love with Little Joe, then Hoss, finally landed on bad boy Adam. It was so nice to have 3 to choose from. And Ben Cartwright wasn't hard on the eyes, either. lol

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    1. Tracy, you are a woman after my own heart. How I LOVED Adam! I remember when I was about 7 or 8 asking my mom to call me Adam. LOLLOL She agreed, but couldn't seem to remember, so I gave up on it. And like you, I was in love with them all at one point, even Ben. LOL
      Cheryl

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  6. I loved " Lancer" and "High Chaparral." My favorite characters were Scott Lancer (Wayne Maunder) and Manolito Montoya (Henry Darrow). I thought they were well-written, sensitively acted characters, especially for Western action shows. Sadly, the fictional life of "Lancer" character Johnny Madrid was a walk in the park compared to the traumas and disasters of actor James Stacy's life. A traffic collision left him a double amputee, and despite his fine performances in several post-accident roles, Stacy made increasingly poor, destructive personal decisions that sent his life into a terrible downward spiral, and harmed others as well. It's very sad, and I wonder if what we know today about trauma and PTSD might not have given him a better future, had those therapies been available then. Hard to know. Perhaps he might have been like Johnny Madrid, finding a positive path for his rebuilt life, or he might have been another Heath Ledger, Cory Monteith, or Philip S. Hoffman. It's a sad footnote to "Lancer," and such a shame.

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    1. Lorrie, I loved High Chaparral, too. So many good westerns from "back in the day"--never a problem to find something good to watch on tv!

      Yes, I agree about James Stacy--always loved him as an actor, and especially in the Johnny Madrid role.

      Thanks so much for coming by today and commenting!
      Cheryl

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  7. Cheryl, LANCER is one of my favorites, and Johnny "Madrid" is one of my favorite characters. My favorite, western show, however, is probably CIMARRON STRIP, followed by HAVE GUN-WILL TRAVEL, CHEYENNE and HIGH CHAPARRAL. And I'm still working my way through the boxed set of THE GUNS OF WILL SONNET.

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    1. Mine too, Bob. So much intensity in his character portrayal--in fact, when I started writing, he is the character I based my first protagonist on--but that book has never seen the light of day. LOL Still, he was the inspiration. I remember The Guns of Will Sonnet. That was a good one, too--and another favorite of mine was Have Gun-Will Travel, too. Thanks for stopping by today!
      Cheryl

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  8. Thank you for this Cheryl. I had never heard of Lancer, maybe it never came over to UK? I too fell for Little Joe, of course his smiles were only for me! All you ladies had to get to the end of the line!! I went to Saturday matinees and saw The Lone Ranger! I wanted a horse like Silver! Weren't there a lot of 'cowboy' series around back then, and why are there so few now I wonder?

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    1. Jill, I loved Little Joe, too. (Didn't everyone?) Yes, so many wonderful western series and movies back then--but times have changed. I loved Cowboys and Aliens, though I know there are a lot of people who disagree with me--I believe it was a way of rekindling interest for the western genre by giving it a new twist.
      Cheryl

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  9. Hi, Cheryl! OMG of course you know how I loved Lancer! Scott is my favorite character - that quiet man of integrity, often held back behind his younger brother's shine, but so totally capable of standing on his own. My only wish - other than having more episodes to enjoy - was that the plots brought the brothers together more. They were brothers, after all, and as the series went on they became more comfortable with each other. A lot of fan fiction has tried to bring them together more, so that the fans can envision what was not brought to the screen
    Cindy

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    1. CINDY! So good to hear from you! Yes, I remember well how much you loved Lancer, and especially Scott! I, too, wish there had been more opportunity for the brothers to be together more. I love fanfiction's attempt to rectify that problem so that we can all enjoy what "might have been"! So glad to see you, dear friend!
      Cheryl

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