LANCER–A WALK DOWN TELEVISION MEMORY LANE by Cheryl Pierson

Cheryl2041web I’m waxing nostalgic today, pining for the days of yesteryear when good westerns were on practically every night of the week! Today, I thought I’d remember my favorite of them all, the western television series LANCER. It’s one of those shows that didn’t last long enough, and 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.

Lancer Family

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.

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 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 AmericaSpur 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.

lancercast

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.

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 it 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.

Lancer Johnny & dog

Do you have a memory of Lancer? Please share if you do! And if you don’t—don’t hesitate to click that link above and see what you missed!

What was YOUR favorite tv western from days gone by?

Cheryl Pierson
A native Oklahoman, I've been influenced by the west all my life. I love to write short stories and novels in the historical western and western romance genres, as well as contemporary romantic suspense! Check my Amazon author page to see my work: https://www.amazon.com/author/cherylpierson
I live in Oklahoma City with my husband of 37 years. I love to hear from readers and other authors--you can contact me here: fabkat_edit@yahoo.com
Follow me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cheryl.pierson.92
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30 Comments

  1. I LOVED “Lancer”. I loved James Stacy and Wayne Maunder almost equally. Thank you for bringing back that memory.

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

    1. Oh, Cindy, I did, too! They were both hunkish weren’t they? LOL But I must confess, James Stacy had the edge with me. That was a wonderful show, wasn’t it?

  2. I have never heard of Lancer. It sounds like it was a very entertaining show.

    1. Janine, it was really different, and the people in the cast made it seem so real. Click that link I included and watch an episode or two–you’ll be hooked.

  3. I vaguely remember Lancer on TV. I guess I was still watching Bonanza in those days. And with so many of us in the house, we pretty much had a weekly routine of what we watched on TV. I wish someone would come up with the concept of a Western TV station on cable… I would be watching it all the time.

    1. Kathleen, Lancer was the first show I can remember missing going outside to be with my friends to stay glued in front of the television for! LOL I wish there was a good western or two on tv/cable now, too. It sure would be nice, wouldn’t it?

  4. Cheryl, I’m so glad you posted this. I didn’t know anyone else loved the show because I never hear anyone reminiscing about it. I had a bad case of hero worship with James Stacy! I’m modeling my gunslinger outlaw brother in the series I’m writing after him. Who can forget those silver conchs running down the legs of James Stacy’s pants? I thought he was the most handsome man I’d ever seen. Oh my Lord! That dark hair and his sexy walk! Yep, he’s my Luke Legend and first appears in Book 1 that comes out in October called To Love a Texas Ranger. I can’t wait to show off the cover. That book features his younger brother but Luke plays a huge role in it.

    I was heartbroken when James Stacy was hit by a drunk driver while riding his motorcycle and lost an arm and leg. That crash killed his girlfriend. So sad.

    1. Linda, I was so in love with James Stacy! He was my first real “crush”–thought he was the handsomest man alive! I think he might be surprised to learn how many of us modeled our heroes in our books after him. LOL I was heartbroken, as well, when I heard about his motorcycle accident. But talk about turning lemons into lemonade! He went on acting and didn’t let it stop him. I can’t wait to have time to sit down and read your new series when it comes out! I will be first in line to snap up To Love a Texas Ranger–especially knowing who Luke is modeled after. LOL Thanks so much for stopping by today.

  5. Oh Cheryl, what a lovely post.

    Lancer was and still is my favorite TV Western. I watched the show in French, under the name of “Le Ranch L” in the early 70s. I would miss going out to play with my friends just to watch it. I fell in love with Johnny Madrid Lancer then. I remember playing cowboys and indians and I was always Johnny Madrid Lancer. I also remember reenacting parts of the show before going to bed. And, what I remember so well is that it is through Lancer Writers, one of the fanfiction sites, that I met you, Cheryl… and that we became friends.

    And once I discovered the fanfiction sites, I was hooked and started writing stories for the sites as well… all the while wondering whether I’d still be in love with Johnny Madrid Lancer were I to watch the show again. The answer after watching a couple of clips on YouTube: YES, again and again.

    So, here’s to a good show and friendship.

    1. Liette, watching Lancer in French would be some kind of treat! Of course, I know to you who are so fluent in it, it’s just an every day thing–but I have always been fascinated with languages and so of course, when anything is on American tv (we get lots of channels from Mexico here) in another language that I’m even halfway familiar with, I get a kick out of trying to figure out what they’re saying.

      I mentioned earlier that Lancer was the first show I would miss playing with my friends to stay inside and watch–you and I were two peas in a pod before we ever knew each other! LOL

      One day I wondered, “What ever happened to Lancer and the stars who created it?” I knew I couldn’t be the ONLY one in the world who missed it and though of it all these years later–and lo and behold–I discovered the fanfiction sites where so many others who loved the show had come together to read and write stories about the Lancer family! I didn’t write but a couple of stories, but I sure read a ton of them. And the friendships that came about through those sites were invaluable–including YOU, my dear friend! If it hadn’t been for our love of Lancer, we never would have met–and I’m so glad we did.

      Hugs, Liette!

  6. The summer in reruns I was in maine at my grandparents summer home. Never did watch much tv when I was a kid.

    1. Kim, I watched a lot of it because I was the “last little chick” at home. LOL Loved the westerns, and I watched all of them whenever I could.

  7. I faithfully watched westerns growing up, too, starting literally as a tot with Roy Rogers and Dales Evans. Even though I was little, I still recall my mom getting me a Dale Evans hat, vest, and holster. 🙂 My all time favorite far and away, though, was Cheyenne starring Clint Walker (1955–1963), and yes I have DVDs of most of those shows. At that time I also really liked Maverick, Bronco, Sugarfoot, and Lawman, all from Warner Bros., although I watched bunches of other westerns too. I guess I missed the Lancer years because I was in college and then Scotland.

    1. Eliza, I loved Rawhide. LOVED IT. I’ve tried to think about why that show was so appealing to me–and I was really young–and I think it was because it created a feeling of protection and safety for me. Even though there was danger in the show, I always knew Rowdy and Mr. Favor would handle it.

  8. HI Cheryl, oh lala, give me more Lancer. Yes, I remember watching those classic Westerns along with my entire family. Can’t say that about many TV shows today, grrrrrr. I think the cable channel INSPY shows a lot of westerns on weekends. I remember going to my uncle’s and getting to watch Bonanza in color. I am an old lady–I gotta confess we didn’t have a color TV until I was i high school.Wow, was that a treat. Bonanza is still my all-time classic favorite and my “modern” favorite is Dr. Quinn. Oh, I can watch them all over and over and over again. Great post today! xoxo

    1. And Tanya, living in CA as you do, you can go visit the hacienda where they filmed it, too! That place was so beautiful. I remember that even after all these years. I’m old, too. LOL I remember finally getting a color tv when I was about 10 or so. OH HAPPY DAY! One thing I remember so clearly: My mom said one evening, “I wish we could get a color tv.” I looked at her and thought, “What is she talking about?” I said, “We HAVE a color tv, Mama. It’s got gray, and black and white.” LOL Life was so simple. I loved Bonanza too, Tanya. I remember begging Mom to let me stay up and watch it –came on on Sundays and she didn’t like letting me stay up since I had to go to school the next day. LOL

      1. Grumble…indeed, we visit the Tahoe area often, but the Ponderosa set closed to tourism in 2007! The new owner nixed it. Boo, hiss.

        1. Oh, I meant the hacienda that Lancer was filmed in–it’s just beautiful. Too bad about the Ponderosa set! :(((

  9. Well I didn’t think I missed any westerns growing up because my dad was a big western fan so that is what we watched most of the time. I don’t remember this one though.

    1. Hi Quilt Lady–it was only on for two seasons, but what a wonderful two seasons it was! My heart beat fast every time it came on. LOL

  10. I loved western TV shows and watched most of them from Roy Rogers, Cisco Kid, and Annie Oakley on. I couldn’t understand why I didn’t recognize Lancer. Then I looked at the dates. 1968 to 1971 I was overseas in the Peace Corps and didn’t watch any TV. Too bad, it looks good.
    Bonanza was a favorite as was Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. I really wish the trend would turn from all the police shows to a few Westerns.

    1. Patricia, if you’ve a mind to, you can click on the link in the blog and watch an episode (or more!) of Lancer. The pilot is longer, but it’s one of the best eps, in my opinion–it gets the ball rolling and explains the story, and you can see how the characters all start out and then as the series goes on, how their relationships progress.

  11. I loved so many of the old westerns. If I had to pick a favorite, I’d say it was The Big Valley.

    Waving from Tulsa.

    1. Oh, Vickie, I LOVED The Big Valley! And how risqué was that for the times, that Heath was “brought into the fold” and raised by the matriarch of the Barclays–her husband’s by-blow! Scandalous! LOL

      How about this rain we’re getting??? Not as bad as Houston, but boy…

  12. I had forgotten about Lancer….thank you for stirring up those memories.

    1. My pleasure, Melanie! That really was a wonderful series! They don’t make ’em like they used to.

  13. I liked watching the Westerns growing up. I’m glad Vicki brought up The Big Valley. I was in love with Heath. I didn’t get to watch Bonanza much because we were in church Sunday nights. I also liked The High Chaparral. That is where A Martinez got noticed. Lancer was one of the shows that we watched. My folks were big Western fans do I was too. I think there is a premium channel that is all Westerns.

    1. Hi Connie! I have that channel, but don’t get much time to watch it. My guilty pleasure is Heroes and Icons– a channel that has a ton of old shows from the 60’s and 70’s– and COMBAT is on every night. LOL

  14. Bonanza was never a favorite though I did love Heath. I think Lancer was more exciting. I liked both brothers equally depending on my mood and the story line. Both of the series were more “western” than others. Being an “eastern girl” I loved anything with horses, handsome men and excitement. Now that I am fully (and more) grown up I can appreciate the stories more than I did. Whatever those guys did it was “major crush time” for me and most of my friends. We always argued which we like more. It was never settled.

    1. Oh, Whitney, I hear you! I had a major crush on both of them, too. Well, heck, I had a major crush on a lot of TV cowboys “back then”–but the Lancer brothers were my favorites.

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