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Even during the Golden Era of television the 1950s-1970s,when there were so many great shows made,The Rifleman ranks among the best shows ever made.Chuck Connors was outstanding,and the supporting cast were very good.But it was Connors as Lucas McCain that made this show great.His character had "real" emotions.Unlike the stereotype good guy in Westerns ,sometimes Lucas was the one to get angry first.He had a relaxed intensity about him,played to perfection.One of the wonderful things about this show is the great character actors that guest starred every week.The show stands out from other westerns for many reasons.One of them being a lot of the story lines involved Chuck Connors as Lucas McCain and his son played by Johnny Crawford.The father son relationship made this more than a western but also a family show.If I had to write everything that was great about this show it would fill a book.Even if one does not like westerns,The Rifleman is outstanding.They don't even come close to making great television shows like this anymore.
Lucas McCain is one of my heroes. He fights for his beliefs, loves his son, never backs down from anyone but never is one to start a fight, and is one cool hombre! The series is based on a simple story (like a lot of westerns) of a man raising his son and battling evil. I could not imagine anyone but Chuck Connors playing Lucas McCain
I'm 43 and have loved this show since I was a kid - and it was in
reruns then. It's special in so many ways.
The open affection between father and son (a rarity in the '50's). The moral lessons that are woven into the narrative - without seeming preachy. The faith in the basic decency and goodness of people. The urge to help others out, even if there isn't an obvious reward. The humor, the heart, and the warmth of the principal characters (all wonderfully played by the actors who give them life).
In addition to this, there's the writing! I tend to drift with modern shows, even my favorites - but I always pay attention when I'm watching The Riflemen. TV writers could learn something from this show which presented all of the above qualities *and* an engaging entertaining story, lasting only about half an hour.
No, it's not reality - or even realism - and thank God! I've had enough of that after an 8 hour day. Keep your Housewives of Whatever! And your LO:SVU! Give me the Rifleman any day!
Like many people, I grew up in a single parent home for part of my
childhood. During that time,I was fortunate that The Rifleman TV series
was in syndication. Over the course of my youth, I got to see most if
not all of the episodes. I always remember The Rifleman as a great
show. Chuck Connors was a stern but loving father figure. He always
explained what was going on to his son, Mark. They always had a
nurturing and positive relationship. Every day, after school, I looked
forward to visiting the town of Northfork, where The Rifleman lived,
and the good guys always won.
Recently, I got a chance to watch the series again, and I was amazed at how much I enjoyed it. Unlike some other Golden Age era (1950s-1960s) westerns that look very stale 40-50 years later, Rifleman still holds up. It was funny to notice how often Mark seemed to cause the gunfight by bragging about his Pa, or how often Mark was the guy that told the town secrets to the wrong people. Every time, Lucas (Chuck Connors), would forgive his son Mark, or otherwise explain the situation to Mark.
In almost every episode, there was a lesson to be learned. Sometimes it was Lucas that had to learn it, usually it was Mark. It was always something positive and uplifting. Guilt and angry words were never part of the lesson.
That is probably why I rate The Rifleman so high. It always managed to find a positive meaning in every situation, even the ones that did not have a happy ending. The Rilfeman helped to give me a positive way to look at the problems of life, back when I was a kid. Thanks to the writers of The Rifleman, and to Chuck Connors, Paul Fix (Micah, the town sheriff and faithful friend), and little Mark. They have given us a great legacy of positive messages!
I grew up with "The Rifleman" and rediscovered it on "retro TV" just recently. It's odd, sometimes in your later years you rediscover things from your childhood and wonder "what was I thinking?" Not the case here, the show is even better than I remember; just great acting by Chuck Connors, Paul Fix, Johnny Crawford (Emmy nominated best supporting actor), and the impressive array of guest stars. I can just imagine 'liberal' moms of today shunning the show as "too violent" and the "wrong message". But in fact, practically every show had a lesson in 'right and wrong', and a warmth you could feel in the interaction between the main characters. I'm sure back when, every boy in America wished he were Mark McCain. As I see the episodes now, I realize you really have to pay attention. You expect a handful of "but Pa!(s)" and the 'bad guys' getting it in the end, but the plots twist and turn and can get quite involved considering the era of the show's heyday. The show's simple premise was capable of telling interesting and occasionally historic stories with some eclectic characters. This unheralded gem is pure Americana, and it sad that this type of family entertainment has evaporated only to be replaced with "poison" (as Madona calls it) on America's living room screens. So much for progress.
Back in the day when I was a lad, I remember you could get a toy
replica of the rifle that Chuck Connors used in The Rifleman. For those
of you who don't remember it was called the Flip Special. As the show
was popular so was the toy gun.
Come to think of it Chuck Connors invented the automatic weapon before anyone else did. Instead of a standard trigger, Connors had that exaggerated big ring to cock the weapon and fire repeatedly at the same time. He was pretty deadly with it too.
But Connors as Lucas McCain wanted to forget his hell-raising past, he was interested in settling down as a single father with his son, Johnny Crawford who grew into his young teen years during the show's run. The only other regular on the show was Marshal Paul Fix who seemed to get in a fix and needed Connors and his rifle to help preserve law and order in the town of North Fort.
What made the The Rifleman special was Chuck Connors and his strong presence as a father to young Crawford. This was the western frontier and not Fifties suburbia in which Hugh Beaumont and Barbara Billingsley raised the Beaver and Wally. He was a single dad that dad's could identify with and emulate. Connors and Crawford were something special on the small screen.
Several women came and went in Lucas McCain's life, but when the show's run ended he was still a widower. As a show The Rifleman had good values and lots of action. Who could ask for more.
I loved the opening to the Rifleman. It starts out with Chuck Connors firing off a salvo from that cool looking Winchester slung down low. Man, he meant business. And then the theme song began. I just had to watch it. I saw many episodes in reruns, when I was about 10 or 11, in the middle 60's , usually on Saturday or Sunday afternoon. The original was a little before my time. It was really my kind of show. Great cast. Luke was great. (Ah Paaaah!)Chuck Connors was awesome! And you knew that at some point in the show he was going to have to use that awesome rifle. I still remember the episode where he had a big fist fight and got a fat lip and winced and then chuckled while taking a sip of coffee to end the show. That was back in the day when Westerns were king.
The Rifleman has always been my favorite western TV serial and it holds up perfectly well after all these years. Most of the stories led to a gunfight at the end and that is what attracted the viewers to the show, but there is no way I would classify it as a violent show. Lucas McCain never failed to preach to his son that his gun was a last resort - fortunately for us, it usually came down to it anyway. It was almost a letdown when he was able to resolve the episode's problems without using the rifle, although those shows usually drove home the lesson that there are always better ways to deal with your issues. Sometimes the show was almost too preachy, but for kids growing up in the late 50's and early 60's it was terrific wholesome entertainment. Lucas McCain taught his son (and all of us) that it's not OK to make fun of people who are different, that sometimes it's better to walk away from trouble, and that the strong should defend the weak. Rarely was anyone shot who not only deserved it but left no other way out. This kind of violence does not, in my opinion, leave any kind of bad impression on youth. What does cause most of the violence in society today is the bad language and 'insult comedy' typical of almost all sitcoms since the mid 70's. Violence is bred from total lack of respect for others, and nothing shows disrespect more than bad language and insults. There was a very clear message of respect for others in the Rifleman series.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Like many people I always wondered why Micah Torrence was sheriff.
Today, I saw how he came to the series.
Micah was a good law man who was a fast gun but got tired of being challenged in gun fights. He is wandering around as a drunk when Lucas gives him a job at his ranch to clean him up. He no longer carries a hand gun.
Three guys (two who had been previously shot by Micah) come to town to kill Micah. Two go out to the ranch to kill Micah but back off because of McCain and his reputation with the rifle. The leaders of the three kills the existing sheriff and sets a trap to ambush McCain in town. The three plan to kill McCain and then kill Micah.
In the ambush, McCain kills one of the three but is shot twice from behind by one of the two other gun men. Micah rode into town to help Lucas because he suspected a trap. He guns down the guy who shot Lucas with a shotgun. He reloads the shotgun and then wins the shootout with the ringleader.
It explains why McCain was so loyal to Micah. He definitely would have died if it was not for Micah.
It is the only episode I can remember where Micah bailed out Lucas McCain. It would be ironic if it was the first one where Micah Torrence was introduced to the show.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Starting out, I have to say right up front that I enjoy watching every
single episode of "The Rifleman". Any given story is a classic example
of an enviable father/son relationship, with Lucas McCain teaching son
Mark an important life lesson. Taken as an entire body of work however,
I see how a lot of fans are really put into a quandary about McCain's
body count as a result of that quick lever action tricked out
Winchester rifle. On that score I would have to say that old Lucas Boy
has to go down in classic TV Western history as the great white shark
of New Mexico Territory. Simply put, he's a killing machine. There's
probably not another character with more kills than Lucas McCain,
except MAYBE Matt Dillon, but he had twenty seasons and five tele-films
going for him, and Lucas had only five.
I was so intrigued by this that with the Encore Western Channel's latest go round with The Rifleman series, I began keeping track. I even had a friend of mine help me (Thanks Will), who taped the episodes so we could discuss them when there was a question mark, and indeed there were many. It seems the writers must have known someone would eventually try to keep track of the Lucas body count, so they threw innovative situations out there to keep everyone guessing. Like Episode #2.45 when Jack Elam falls on a pitchfork during a fight with McCain, dying in the process. Does that count as a 'kill' for Lucas? Or how about #3.105 when an outlaw grabs McCain's gun to shoot his partner who's bailing out on him? Lucas plugged it and it explodes, killing the shooter. See what I mean. There would have to be a tribunal of respected Western TV critics to arrive at an official Lucas McCain body count to account for all the controversial scenarios.
But for what it's worth, I can offer interested observers my entirely unofficial analysis based on a five season viewing of 'The Rifleman' on the Encore Western Channel. Let me preface though by first commenting on Episode #1.12 - 'Young Englishman' - in which Lucas McCain explains to son Mark (Johnny Crawford) that killing is always to be considered a means of last resort when facing a life or death situation. By that reckoning, Lucas was the master of last resort for a total of 108 times! Can you imagine ANYONE with their life on the line as many times as The Rifleman? I mean, how do you go through life and find yourself in so many precarious situations? But wait, that was only during the run of the series. If you watch the shows and pay attention, Lucas alludes to even MORE people he's killed during the Civil War and the Indian Nation Wars before he ever got to North Fork.
So how does that square with the real life gunfighters of the Old West? Well, during his lifetime, the legend of Wild Bill Hickok had him killing over a hundred men. However before he died, Wild Bill 'confessed' that he killed 'only' thirty seven. In terms of accuracy, quick draw and ruthlessness, John Wesley Hardin had no match, and his count of just over forty men killed is probably tops among known gunfighters. Heck, by the time Lucas McCain killed forty men, it was still only the second season!
Getting back to the show itself, it's hard to come up with a few favorites out of the series run of 168 stories, but two that would be in my Top Ten are the Sammy Davis Jr. episodes. In #4.130 - 'Two Ounces of Tin' - Davis comes gunning for the man who killed his father, Lucas McCain. It's kind of a poignant story since Davis' character makes friends with Mark before calling out his father. In #5.151 - 'The Most Amazing Man' - Davis is put on the spot by a local gunman who challenges him to a gunfight. I guess I'm intrigued by the idea of the former 'Rat Packer' in a TV Western, which seems so out of character for the variety entertainer I'm more familiar with. And say, could he handle those six-shooters! There's also the intriguing episode #4.131, 'The Deadly Image', in which Chuck Connors plays two characters, Lucas and a fierce villain look alike. I had to chuckle at the end of the story, because if you think about it, the Rifleman is so bad a-- cool in this one that he winds up actually 'killing himself'!!!
Anyway, I tried to have some fun with the whole Lucas body count thing. Again, I want to state that by no means is my reckoning meant to be an official count, but I'd say it's pretty close. You had a few episodes where Lucas teamed with Micah or some other gunslinger firing on a group of villains, so there again you have a toss up as to who shot who. Still, over a hundred 'kills' would qualify Lucas McCain as a Wild Bill Hickok, John Wesley Hardin, Tom Horn and Billy the Kid all rolled up into one!
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