21 March 2006 | dougbrode
pitcairn (jason evers) is a horse expert in the old west
The Wrangler is one of the least known of all TV westerns from the mid to late fifties, and with good reason: it only lasted six episodes. Not that this was a normal series which got canceled owing to low ratings. Rather, it premiered in the summertime, for back in 1960, rather than show endless reruns as is the case now, a popular show would very often take 'a breather,' at which point the network would replace it for a month and a half with new episodes of a show they had not yet decided to carry during the regular season, trying it out to see if it picked up much interest with the public. Apparently, Wrangler did not, because following its six week run as a replacement for the highly popular Tennessee Ernie Ford musical show, it disappeared without a sight. Never really rerun, even, because there simply weren't enough episodes in the can for syndication. In the can, though, may be the wrong term. For this was one of a number of experiments done at this time as the networks tested out the concept of taping rather than filming dramas. The strong point was that it would give them a sense of immediacy that, they hoped, would approximate live TV, with all its inherent anything can happen potential for surprise. The weak was that there was no cinemtographer, no control of the image in terms of lighting, angles, etc. leaving such a show in a rather crude presentation. Rod Serling, incidentally, was forced by CBS that same year to do several Twilight Zone episodes with videotape, and he always claimed that it was neither fish nor fowl - not truly spontaneous or completely finished. He was right, and that held as true for Wrangler over at NBC as his own CBS Friday night show. Besides, the taping would certainly have had a better chance to succeed on Zone, with its intimate stories, than in a western, where the audience expected crackerjack and carefully timed action scenes. There weren't many on Wrangler, owing to the clumsiness of taping. After a short while, all the networks gave up on this idea, except for those highly intimate afternoon soaps. Never again, though, for a western. One other thing that made Wrangler interesting is that the show was true to its title. A wrangler is a cowhand who specializes in caring for horses, and that was indeed Pitcairn's job. Focusing on such a specialist, rather than a jack of all trades like the hero of Cheyenne and numerous other shows, lent Wrangler some distinction.