TV Westerns


REVIEWED BY DAN STUMPF:

   

 TOP GUN. Fame Pictures/United Artists, 1955. Sterling Hayden, William Bishop, Karen Booth, James Millican, Regis Toomey, Hugh Sanders, John Dehner, Rod Taylor. Story & co-screenwriter: Steve Fisher. Director: Ray Nazarro.

   Terror in a Texas Town (reviewed here) was followed on TCM by Top Gun, also with Sterling Hayden, and  directed by Ray Nazarro, a Universal work-horse who at least knew how to put a picture together. The script, by Steve   Fisher, echoes High Noon and presages Man of the West in its story of Hayden as a local badman who’s been stringing with a Quantrill type (played hy John Dehner as a crafty maniac, in precisely the same style Lee J. Cobb used for Doc Tobin in Man of the West) but rides ahead to warn the folks in his home town that the baddies are coming.

   In High Noon style, the townsfolk spend most of the film debating over what to do, ostracizing Hayden and trotting out their buried grudges rather than mounting an effective defense, till Hayden and a few others have to take care of things.

   Somehow this movie really works.

   Nazarro races through the talky scenes like he knows he’s gotta keep the popcorn crowd in their seats, and makes the most of the few action bits. Although the budget is not much higher than any TV Western of its time, and the plot and dialogue are hardly memorable — barely noticeable, in fact — it’s handled with a workmanlike precision that kept me well-entertained for the brief hour of its length.

— Reprinted from A Shropshire Sleuth #76, March 1996.

   

 LUKE AND THE TENDERFOOT “The Boston Kid.” Ziv Productions, unsold pilot, 1955. Edgar Buchanan, Carleton Carpenter. Guest Cast: Nancy Hadley, Lee Van Cleef, Dabbs Greer, Michael Landon, Leonard Nimoy, Jim Bannon. Producer/screenwriter: Steve Fisher. Director: Montgomery Pittman. Currently available on YouTube here.

   In this early 30 minute black-and-white western pilot, Edgar Buchanan plays Luke Herkimer, a bewhiskered itinerant peddler slash con man in the Old West, and if you can picture Edgar Buchanan in such a role, you probably will not be surprised if I were to tell you that he’s not all that good as either of the two.

   As he pulls into the nest town on his travels he meets a naive young man named Pete Quinn (Carleton Carpenter) stepping off a stage, straight from the East and wearing straight from the East clothes, which makes him the center of laughter from a gang of school kids as well as a bunch of local rowdies. You know, the kind of rowdies who are always hanging around small western towns in the movies being, well, rowdy.

   Before he knows it, Pete has been persuaded by Luke to fight three of the rowdies in a boxing match, posing as the “Boston Kid.” Pete’s resemblance to a notorious boxer is nil, zilch, none, and much hilarity ensues.

   In spite it all, though, Luke and Pete decide to patch things up and become partners of some sort, tin pans clanging as their wagon heads on out of sight.

   Enjoyable enough, you might say, but there’s certainly not enough meat on this to build a series on. There was a second episode made, one entitled “The John Wesley Hardin Story,” that one source says was actually aired by CBS in 1963. Most of the fun in watching this one comes from looking for members of the cast whose faces you can still recognize today. Well, mostly so. For some reason I never placed Leonard Nimoy in this one by his face. I will have to watch it again.

   But to be honest, though, not right away.

   

   

Note: Thanks to Mike Grost and his occasional email newsletter for tipping me off to this one.

THE MEN FROM SHILOH. “The West vs. Colonel MacKenzie.” NBC, 16 September 1970. (Season 9, Episode 1, of The Virginian). Stewart Granger (Colonel Alan MacKenzie), Doug McClure (Trampas), James Drury (The Virginian), Lee Majors (screen credit only). Guest Cast: Elizabeth Ashley, Martha Hyer, Don DeFore, John Larch. Directors: Murray Golden & Jerry Hopper. Currently streaming on the Starz channel.

   When the TV series The Virginian began its ninth series, some changes were made, starting with the title. The new owner of the Shiloh ranch also showed up: Alan MacKenzie (Stewart Granger), a British army colonel, along with his former aide-de-camp, now a combination valet and butler. As the new owner, the intent was to give the show a new perspective, that of someone unfamiliar to the West, someone who must learn its new ways and how things are done. On the job training!

   When he arrives, both Trampas and the Virginian are ready to step aside, but by the end of this first episode, they have agreed to stay. Roy Tate, a new regular to be played by Lee Majors, does not yet appear.

   Col. MacKenzie does not have long to wait to get his first crisis under his belt, that of the hanging of a suspected rustler by a gang of vigilantes. His sister claims he was innocent, and MacKenzie is inclined to agree with her. This simple act puts him in direct opposition to the sheriff and the local Cattleman’s Association. Nothing like getting off on the wrong foot with the people in power in the country you’ve just moved into.

   Given the 90-minute format the series always had, there’s plenty of time to flesh out the story without feeling that there was padding to waste, at least this time around. While I found nothing amiss in having an Englishman in charge of the ranch, I did find Col. MacKenzie a little too kind and good to be true. But kindness and goodness sometimes win out, and not very surprisingly, they certainly do here.

   

TALES OF WELLS FARGO. “Vignette of a Sinner.” NBC, 02 June 1962, 60 min, color. (Season 6, episode 34.) Dale Robertson (Jim Hardie), William Demarest. Guest cast: Jeff Morrow, Joyce Taylor, James Craig, Edward Platt. Series creator: Frank Gruber. Screenwriter: Al C. Ward. Director: William Whitney. Currently steaming on Starz.

   Tales of Wells Fargo was on NBC for five seasons in black and white, with each episode running 30 minutes. For its sixth and final season, however, they expanded the episodes to 60 minutes and showed them in color. As opposed to my usual custom of reviewing the pilot episodes, “Vignette of a Sinner” is the last one of the program’s last season.

   And quite fittingly so. While riding on a stagecoach to meet Jim, his semi-comical sidekick Jeb Gaine (William Demarest, as a character also added for this final season) regales his traveling companion with tales about his good buddy Jim. And for good reason. His companion is a lady, and Jeb has hopes of being a matchmaker. They would be perfect together, he thinks.

   The good news is that the attraction is mutual. The bad news is that she has come west to marry her fiancé (Jeff Morrow). The even worse news, for her, is that her intended is also a crook, having just robbed a stage of a considerable amount of money.

   The rest of the story I leave to your imagination, but with director William Witney at the helm, there is plenty of shooting and fighting before the smoke clears. Dale Robertson was an excellent choice to play Well Fargo agent Jim Hardie. Not only was he good with his fists and guns, he was good-looking, unassuming, and a fine man on a horse.

   And suffice it to say that while the closing scene shows her riding a stage back to Kentucky, no viewer is left unaware that she fully intends to return. Good show that.

   

CHEYENNE “Mountain Fortress.” ABC / Warner Brothers, 60m, 20 September 1955 (Season One, Episode One). Clint Walker (Cheyenne Bodie), L. Q. Jones (Smitty Smith). Guest Cast: Ann Robinson, Bob Wilke, Peter Coe, James Garner, John Doucette. Director: Richard L. Bare. Season One has been released on DVD and is also currently streaming on Starz.

   As I understand it, Cheyenne the TV series was a hit from the start, and it’s easy to see why. It’s an easy transition from the B-westerns that the TV audience in the mid-50s grew up with in the 1940s, complete with a hunky hero in the laconic Gregory Peck mode (Clint Walker), and a semi-goofy sidekick (L. Q. Jones), in the almost-but-not-quite Smiley Burnette et al. mode.

   Add a story that wouldn’t be out of place in 1940s, except that it’s one that actually makes sense, plotwise, complete with a secondary cast of villains and cavalry men whose faces were well known in westerns before then, if not their names. (But do note one new face, that of James Garner as a cavalry lieutenant whose fiancée is on board a stagecoach ambushed by Indians. This may have been his first appearance in either movies or on TV.)

   But as it turns out, the stagecoach was also the intended target of a gang of outlaws, who take both Cheyenne and Smitty prisoners, as well as the girl and the stage driver, and when the cavalry comes riding in, looking for the girl, they’re taken hostage too. All Cheyenne has to do to free the others is to guide the gang of outlaws safely to Mexico – through Indian territory, of course, and they’re already trapped on a high mountain top surrounded on all sides.

   One quick observation, other than the fact, already pointed out, that this little more than a B-western, dressed up only a very very little, and that’s that the body count is very very high on both sides, and maybe that’s  because (and this may be way off base) some of the footage used was left over (or re-used) from B-westerns from the 40s. No matter. This series made Clint Walker a very big star at the time (and I am not referring to his height, but as long as you ask, he was 6′ 6″), and the fact that it was on for eight seasons, reflects that.

   But one last thing, if I may. The bit with Cheyenne’s sidekick (Smitty) lasted only two more episodes, and he was gone for good. I can only conjecture why. If anyone knows more, that’s what the space set aside for comments is for.

   

REVIEWED BY JONATHAN LEWIS:

THE RIFLEMAN “The Marshal.” ABC, 21 October 1958 (Season 1, Episode 4). Chuck Connors (Lucas McCain), Johnny Crawford (Mark McCain). Guest Cast: Paul Fix, James Drury, R.G. Armstrong, Robert Wilke, Warren Oates, Abby Dalton, Bill Quinn. Written & directed by Sam Peckinpah.

   It doesn’t really get any more western than this. Written and directed by Sam Peckinpah, “The Marshal,” a first season episode of The Rifleman has it all. A once respected lawman gone to seed and now a drunk who refuses to even carry a gun. A pair of brothers terrorizing a town. A scheming outlaw willing to murder without hesitation. A redemption arc for the aforementioned drunken former marshal. And some terrific character actors.

   Although Chuck Connors is the star, this episode really belongs to Paul Fix. He portrays Micah Torrance, a once fearless marshal who is first seen stumbling drunk outside of a saloon. Lucas McCain (Connors) takes him under his wing and offers him good hard work on the ranch. It’s there that both he and his son Mark (Johnny Crawford) realize how much damage whiskey has gone to Micah’s body and soul.

   At more or less the same time that Micah is trying to put his life back together, outlaws ride into town. Leading the group is the handsome, but devious Lloyd Carpenter (James Drury before he starred in The Virginian). There are also two brothers. Flory Sheltin (Robert Wilke) and his brother Andrew (Warren Oates).

   Without giving away too much of the story, let’s just say that something happens to the current sheriff of North Fork (R. G. Armstrong) that allows for Micah to take his place as the chief lawman of the fictional New Mexico town. Fix would go on to appear in some 150 or so episodes of The Rifleman.
   

BAT MASTERSON “Double Showdown.” NBC, 08 October 1958 (Season 1, Episode 1.) Gene Barry (Bat Masterson). Guest Cast: Robert Middleton, Jean Willes, Elisha Cook, Adele Mara, King Donovan. Teleplay: Gene Levitt. Director: Walter Doniger. Currently streaming on Amzazon Prime Video.

   In this first episode of a new western series on NBC, Bat Masterson comes to the aid of a old friend who owns a casino saloon: he’s being threatened by a competitor (Robert Middleton) who does not think the town is big enough for them both, but if it is, he wants to own them both.

   Using his guns and his trademark cane as well as his wits, Masterson manages to persuade the unctuous villain to a game of chance, winner take all. Dealing the cards is an old girl friend (Jean Willes), now reduced to working for Middleton’s character.

   Unfortunately there’s not a lot of suspense that can build in an episode that’s only 30 minutes long, and that includes commercials and a bit of flirtatious byplay involving Adele Mara’s characters, who comes in the stage one day and leaves the next. Not only that, the episode has two different endings. Anticipating that critics would be complaining how badly the show plays loose and easy with the facts, the point the producers decided to make in advance is that there is often more than one way history gets relayed down to us over the years.

   It’s an approach that I don’t remember ever seeing before, and I wasn’t expecting it. It was rather neat to see it done here.

   

TOMBSTONE TERRITORY “Gunslinger from Galeville.” ABC, 16 Oct 1957. 30 min. Cast: Pat Conway (Sheriff Clay Hollister), Richard Eastham (Harris Claibourne of the Tombstone Epitaph / Narrator), Thomas B. Henry, Gilman Rankin. Guest Cast: Robert Foulk, Brett King, Carol Kelly. Writer: Andy White. Director: Eddie Davis.

   The first two seasons of Tombstone Territory aired on ABC; the third and final season were shown in syndication only (ZIV). Each episode was supposedly based on a true story published in the Tombstone Epitaph in the 1880s. Only Richard Eastham, the publisher, and Pat Conway as Sheriff Clay Hollister were in all 91 episodes. No one else appeared more than a handful of times.

   Even though the story itself is a rather fanciful one, the first episode, “Gunslinger from Galeville,” is a good one. Determined to collect taxes from everyone in the county, Hollister co-opts the services of outlaw Curly Bill Brocius (Robert Foulk) to help persuade certain recalcitrants to pay up.

   It’s not easy, of course. The members of Curly Bill’s gang don’t know what’s come over their boss. One in particular holds a personal grudge against the sheriff, and lots of gunplay is the result. Curly Bill Brocius returned for a couple more episodes, but this was the only time that Carol Kelly appeared, as the owner of a small store in outlaw territory.

   Pat Conway had a decent career in TV, mostly in westerns, but this series was his only steady job. He’s both tough and steady in this one, and he displays a small sense of humor along with the other two attributes — that plus being a fine hand with a gun. Richard Eastham was solid enough as the editor/publisher/narrator, but mostly he acts a well-established witness who is otherwise only along for the ride.

CIMARRON CITY “I, the People.” NBC, 11 October 1958. Swaon 1, Episode 1. Cast: George Montgomery (Matt Rockford), Audrey Totter (Beth Purcell), John Smith (Lane Temple). Guest Cast: Fred MacMurray, John Anderson. Director: Writers: Gene L. Coon, Fenton Earnshaw. Director: Jules Bricken.

   The story is interesting enough, but as a first episode of the series, which lasted only one year, it really doesn’t do the job, as far as I was concerned. Of the three major cast members, only George Montgomery’s role is well defined. As Matt Rockford, he’s a successful cattle rancher but even more importantly, he’s also the son of the founder of Cimarron City, a small town north of Oklahoma City, and as such takes a decidedly paternalistic attitude toward it.

   Audrey Totter plays the owner of a boarding house in town, and is given a few lines every so often, but her role has nothing to do with the story. I never did figure out who John Smith was supposed to be. I have since found out that he was a town blacksmith, but if he did any blacksmithing during this episode, I apologize for missing it.

   I saw no reason for Audrey Totter to be in this episode, and apparently also saw no future for her in the part, for (I am told) she quit the series soon thereafter. To give Smith more of a part, in later episodes he becomes a deputy sheriff, while Montgomery is elected town mayor. But that all comes later. In “I, the People,” nobody in charge seems to know exactly what they are doing.

   Which allows Fred MacMurray’s character to come into town and ingratiate himself to the town elders as a substantial citizen, moving his way up first from town banker to being elected mayor. At which point, in the name of law and order, he really begins to tighten his smug self-satisfied grip on the town.

   And eventually Matt Rockford decides he’s had enough and that he’s the only one who can do anything about it. Otherwise it’s Fred MacMurray’s show all the way, at first anxious to please any way he can, but as time goes on, showing more an more of his inner character. Everything in this episode centers around him, not George Montgomery. As for Totter and Smith, they make no impression at all.


TV IN 2019: PART TWO –
BROADCAST AND CABLE NETWORKS
by Michael Shonk


   Comparing the broadcast and cable networks to the streaming services is like comparing cassette tapes to CD. Both have entertaining content, it is just the formats are different.

   The broadcast networks are fading dinosaurs, no longer a place where mass audiences gather on a daily basis. Cable networks are doomed to be devoured by the streaming world that features original programming as well as the programs of the cable networks.

   TV has changed in so many ways. Because of devices such as Apple TV, Roku TV, and Amazon’s Firestick you can watch nearly all of cable TV without cable and even without a TV set. TV has left the living room and is following you, waiting to fetch for you whatever and whenever you want to watch. Part One of this two part survey looked at the streaming services, so now it is the broadcasting and cable networks turn.

   With the exception of some time as the top rated network in the 1970s-80s, ABC has never gotten much respect. Having been born during the radio days as a rib off NBC, ABC tends to get treated like third in line. Things have not improved since Disney bought them.

   ABC’s announced goal for the 2019-20 season is to finish first among women. One reason is they have to share most of the sports with their Disney family brother ESPN. ABC has also found success in the past with the women market and in today’s diversity culture women are in increasing demand.

   ABC shows have a real problem writing male characters that men want to watch. ABC’s best dramas tend to feature a gorgeous independent likeable female lead. The problem is few of their series characters are likable or deep enough for the audience to care. The writing focuses on emotion over plots and romance over action. Shows such as TAKE TWO and WHISKEY CAVALIER are good examples of this.

   I do have hopes for two of ABC announced new series. REEF BREAK airs this month. It stars Poppy Montgomery (UNFORGETTABLE) as an ex-thief turned trouble-shooter for a tropical island government.

   The broadcast networks new fall series I most look forward to is ABC ‘s STUMPTOWN. Based on a comic book, the story is about a gorgeous wise cracking kick ass female PI. How could I resist after watching this trailer?

   Not so long ago CBS’s future looked bright. It had defeated the evil conglomerate Viacom and had won its freedom. But there were problems. CBS’ powerful successful ruthless womanizing media mogul Les Moonves had faced down Viacom but would be crushed by a bunch of women and the rising power of the me-too movement. Only CBS stockholders were sorry to see Moonves leave, and they had to watch in horror as Viacom began to rise and turn its eyes back on them.

   CBS may continue to attract the most viewers on linear TV, but such numbers mean less and less. Those at CBS remain clueless about diversity. Diversity is not taking your ancient series format and change the white guy to a woman or minority.

   CBS made a big deal out of Alan Cummings playing a gay man in INSTINCT but didn’t bother to update its tired format. The formula has one strange unconventional male paired with an over serious all business female cop and they solve crimes together. This summer INSTINCT returns and if you like old-fashioned procedurals, it is worth a peek, if you are bored with TV from the 20th century, CBS is not for you.

   The best thing CBS has going for it is the showrunnners Michelle and Robert King who have blessed the unworthy network with THE GOOD WIFE and THE GOOD FIGHT. Ok, they also created the hideous failure BRAIN DEAD. CBS is hoping EVIL, a show about a Catholic Assessor and a non-believing profiler joining forces to fight psychopaths, is one of the King’s good shows.

   Among the cable networks owned by CBS are SHOWTIME and POP TV. POP TV is best known for SCHITT’S CREEK. The Canadian sitcom and cult TV favorite has been renewed for its sixth season. Also on the network are FLORIDA GIRLS (comedy about four girls in a Florida small town) and FLACK (comedy about public relations).

   CW has its own measurement for success rather than Nielsen’s live ratings. They are not alone. Because there is no accepted metric for digital viewing, every network and many of the media buyers (advertisers) have their own set of numbers beyond Nielsen’s. When the totals are as small as TV has gotten, how many mean less than who, what, where and devotion to content/product.

   CW was a merger of UPN (Paramount) and WB (Warner Brothers). CBS and Warner co-own CW and supply nearly all its programs. Perhaps my biggest question about CW this fall is are they going to weird out Nancy Drew like they did to Archie in RIVERDALE? The trailer is inconclusive.

   Today’s FOX is a pale version of itself when it was the number one rated TV network. Disney swallowed up most of FOX, leaving just the broadcast TV network, Fox News cable networks, and Fox sports. Fox is saving most of its original scripted series for the midseason. Meanwhile, it is mainly games shows this summer and sports this fall. Perhaps its most successful original scripted series this fall will be WWE pro wrestling. For drama fans this fall offers PRODIGAL SON (serial killer Dad wants son to join the family business), and 9-1-1 has Jennifer Love Hewitt joining the cast.

   The technology of today is able to create extremely detailed analytics and it has changed television as much as sabermetrics has changed baseball.

   Hollywood REPORTER (May 20, 2019) discussed commercial television with some media buyers, “Buyers also expressed a collective eye roll at the emphasis on total viewers…But even the so called sweet-spot of viewers 18-49 has become an antiquated benchmark.”

   So NBC winning the 18-49 means little and all the media coverage of Nielsen’s live ratings mean even less.

   Bob Greenblat who had taken NBC from a laughing stock to respected network left NBC to run part of the WarnerMedia streaming service.

   Today NBC has the best fiction among the broadcast networks. An NBC show is more interested in the heart, more interested in examining the characters than who done it.

   Supernatural cop series THE INBETWEEN currently airing is a good example. Every character has a sob story for depth. I have seen two episodes and what is the “inbetween” is still a mystery. Not that it matters, as long as you accept the concept the drama is watching the other side help Cassie stop the villain and save the victim. If you like supernatural mysteries try it out.

   AMC NETWORKS is made up of cable networks: AMC (WALKING DEAD), IFC (PORTLANDIA), WE (BRAXTON FAMILY VALUES), and Sundance (RECTIFY). AMC NETWORK co-owns BBC America (DOCTOR WHO) with BBC studios.

   It has been a busy year for AMC. Final seasons aired of martial arts action series INTO THE BADLANDS, historical drama THE SON, and (starting in August) supernatural PREACHER. Also airing in 2019 are FEAR OF THE WALKING DEAD, NOS4A2, and THE TERROR.

   BBC America and AMC both air KILLING EVE. The critically acclaimed thriller has just ended season 2 and has been renewed for a third season, coming most likely in 2020.

   BBC America is best known for DOCTOR WHO. My favorite Doctors remain Tom Baker and Matt Smith, but Jodie Whittaker as Momma Who is terrific, it was the writing and the supporting cast that made last season unwatchable for me.

   Fans of ORPHAN BLACK will be happy to learn the series is coming back in a 10 part audio series, starring Tatiana Maslany. There is a possible new TV series in development.

   Sundance Channel has a new eight-part adaption of the book NAME OF THE ROSE.

   A&E is a group owned in part by Disney and Hearst. It has A+E, History, and Lifetime. A+E is into reality programming. Lifetime is best known for its original scripted movies for women. In the past Lifetime has tried original scripted TV series such as VERONICA CLARE, ANGELA’S EYES and MARY KILLS PEOPLE, but today its schedule features reality shows such as DANCE MOMS. History Channel has a mix of reality programming (AX MEN and FORGED IN FIRE), and historical dramas (PROJECT BLUE BOOK and THE VIKINGS). THE VIKINGS are due to air its sixth and final season during the 2019-20 season. There are plans for a spin-off but not enough details to expect it soon.

   Among the better parts of FOX that Disney devoured is Fox entertainment cable networks FX and FXX. Both feature critically approved programs with unlikable characters and a premise that scream edginess.

   FX is beloved by TV critics everywhere. Some of the series to air this year are BASKETS (life of an clown), FOSSE/VERDON (Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon’s relationship), LEGION (superheroes), POSE (life in gay culture in New York during the 80s), SNOWFALL (drug dealer), and WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS (vampire comedy).

   FXX is a comedy offshoot of FX and a place of endless THE SIMPSON reruns. ARCHER began as an animated spoof on spies and over time has turned its attention to genres such as action, PI noir, adventure, and this year space opera. This is ARCHER tenth season and may be its last.

   Disney still has its multiple cable networks for kids and families. It also owns Freeform that has found an audience for gossipy mysteries (PRETTY LITTLE LIARS) and supernatural series. I can hardly wait to see just how fun bad is MOTHERLOAD: FORT SALEM – a series about gorgeous young witches who serve in the American army.

   Now that AT&T has bought Time Warner and dubbed it WarnerMedia there will be changes. At this time, Warner’s focus is less on cable and more on its future streaming service. HBO has been told to produce more series, quality be damn.

   There may be changes in the formats of TNT and TBS. TNT currently is for drama and TBS is for comedy. TNT has dramas such as CLAWS, and ANIMAL KINGDOM. TBS has comedy such as AMERICAN DAD, FULL FRONTAL and SEARCH PARTY.

   CHASING THE CURE is a live series to simulcast on both TNT and TBS. The series features a real person with a mystery disease and the audience from all over the world offers up possible cures.

   Will Warnermedia bring changes to cable’s best channel TCM, one of the few places left to enjoy film’s classics? Cartoon fans wonder what the future has in store for Cartoon Network (modern cartoons), Boomerang (cartoons featuring new versions of older characters such as Bugs and Scooby Doo), and popular Adult Swim (for adult fans of cartoons). This August Adult Swim favorite and one of the greatest TV cartoons ever made, the VENTURE BROTHERS return for a seventh season.

   Comcast owns NBC Universal studio and a variety of cable networks including E (Kardashians), SYFY, USA, and Bravo.

   Bravo is more a reality and lifestyle network, which is why DIRTY JOHN will air its second season on USA in 2020. DIRTY JOHN is based on a true crime podcast.

   One of the most popular cable networks, USA will say good-bye to MR ROBOT as I await BRIARPATCH, a series based on Ross Thomas book (I expect it in 2020). This summer SUITS ends and spin-off series PEARSON begins.

   SYFY has had problems only cable networks can have. THE EXPANSE is one of the TV’s greatest science fiction series, but it cost too much so SYFY cancelled it. Fortunately Amazon Prime saved it and will be showing the fourth season soon.

   WYNONNA EARP may have a small audience but it is a passionate audience advertisers love. It has been renewed for a fourth and fifth season. However IDW that produces the series ran out of money and had to stop production. EARP fans refused to let it die, even at one point buying ad space on the giant billboard in Times Square begging fans to help save the show. SYFY (and Canadian channel Space) still want the series.

   THE MAGICIANS (based on Lew Grossman’s trilogy) just finished its season 4 and has been renewed. Airing this summer will be the last season of KILLJOYS and the second of KRYPTON (Superman’s home planet).

   SYFY has an affection for bizarre creepy series that generally don’t last long. Some examples have been DEADLY CLASS, high school for assassins, and BLOOD DRIVE, a Death Race 2000 like car race but this time the cars run on blood. This year saw the second season and maybe the last of HAPPY. Christopher Meloni stars as Nick, an ex-cop with endless number of vices including the fondness of killing people, and his imaginary friend Happy. Ann-Margret joined the cast this year and…well…

   Viacom has long enjoyed collecting a variety of cable networks. A recent reorganization has made the cable networks more team players than independent networks.

   BET will continue to specialize in programs for the black audience such as AMERICAN SOUL and IN CONTEMPT. Comedy Central focus is on comedy, from live shows (DAILY SHOW) to scripted comedy (THE OTHER TWO). MTV will likely drop any future attempts at scripted TV (anyone remember scripted thriller EYE CANDY, based on R.L. Stine book) and do docu-reality shows with young adults (THE HILLS…NEW BEGINNING). Nickelodean should continue its mix of cartoons (SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS) and live action (HENRY DANGER) for kids.

   Spike network has been renamed Paramount network and is Viacom’s flagship. Its scripted original YELLOWSTONE has been renewed for a third season. Kevin Costner stars in the epic family drama and DALLAS wanna-be.

   HALLMARK MYSTERY MOVIES has its fans. If you like overly formulaic romantic mysteries this is for you. There are a seemingly endless number of different but interchangeable series. Current lineup include GOURMET DETECTIVE MYSTERY, MYSTERY 101, PICTURE PERFECT MYSTERIES, HAILEY DEAN MYSTERIES, and CROSSWORD MYSTERY.

   August will be AURORA TEAGARDEN MYSTERY month. Based on the books written by Charlaine Harris, Aurora (Candace Cameron-Bure) is a librarian who runs the Real Mystery Club. Of interest to old TV fans, Marilu Henner (TAXI) co-stars.

   Another way to watch TV is Digital TV. All it requires is a digital antenna and a TV or some are also available on cable. Among the best known of digital stations are ME-TV, ESCAPE, COZI, GRIT and ANTENNA -TV. These stations remind me of the old TV Independent stations such as the great KDOC -Los Angeles that aired little beyond old TV series reruns.

   When TV has more demand than supply, syndication has always stepped in, from the early wild uncharted days of the 1950s TV to the early days of today’s cable. Today we find original scripted series everywhere we find cable channels.

   WGN AMERICA returns to once cancelled, now revived Canadian original PURE, based on the true story of the Mennonite mob. ION carries mainly your standard syndicated reruns but also offers new original scripted series from Canada, PRIVATE EYES:

   There are small independently owned cable networks that serve a small audience and are not available on streaming. My favorite is El Rey, created by filmmaker Robert Rodriguez (EL MARIACHI) for Latino males, young filmmakers, and fans of dubbed martial arts films. It reruns hard to find series such as STARHUNTER REDUX and RELIC HUNTER. It offers exposure to aspiring filmmakers. Among its original programs are MAN AT ARMS: ART OF WAR (Danny Trejo examines weapons), comedy CRUNCH TIME, a talk show, various animation series, and LUCHA UNDERGROUND.

   The goal of this two part look at TV in 2019 was to help you in this world of nearly 500 original scripted TV series each season, to actually find some of those series, and maybe even find some you like.

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