LANCER–A WALK DOWN TELEVISION MEMORY LANE by Cheryl Pierson

Hi everyone! I’m in the middle of getting new flooring. Yes, I should be grateful, but 2 months, 6 workmen and not-a-day-to-myself two months later, I’m ready to pull my hair out. Did I mention that after 40 years of marriage this is the closest we’ve ever come to divorce? We’re still together and the floors are almost completely done! I’ve got no office, no computer (except my laptop that doesn’t have everything on it) and only 2 barely functioning brain cells right now, so I picked an “oldie but goodie” from my past posts to regale you with today–hope you won’t mind the re-run–it’s been a while, and LANCER is worth remembering again and again!

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 die-hard 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: http://www.amazon.com/author/cherylpierson
I live in Oklahoma City with my husband of 40 years. I love to hear from readers and other authors--you can contact me here: fabkat_edit@yahoo.com
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42 Comments

  1. I was just hooked on westerns growing up. Our first TV was black and white. Hopalog Cassidy, the Lone Ranger, and Bonanza were my favs. When color came around, Bonanza ran away as best. Gunsmoke eventually went to color.
    Best wishes on your flooring. May you and hubby find time for yourselves to recover from the floors.

    1. Hi Jerri! I was hooked, too, from the time I was tiny. I remember begging Mom and Dad to let me stay up and watch Bonanza on Sunday nights–And yes, COLOR was so wonderful, wasn’t it? We had b&w for a very long time–I think I was about 10 or 11 before we got a color tv, so that would have been 1967 or 1968.

      Thanks for the best wishes on the flooring. I do love it, but probably would not go through that again. LOL Next time, if there is a next time, it’ll be carpet all the way. LOL Thanks so much for stopping by!

  2. Good morning- I do not recall Lancer, but sure wished more shows like this were on.
    I was a huge FURY fan with Joey a young boy and his black stallion Fury. I wished it was still on too.
    Thanks for sharing this CHERYL. Have an amazing week and enjoy your new floors.

    1. Tonya, I bet you would LOVE Lancer! I wish it had been on for more than 2 seasons, but they were good while they lasted! I vaguely remember Fury. Gosh there were so many westerns and now there are none. Really sad! Thanks for stopping by today, Tonya! I am enjoying the floors–still trying to put everything back where it goes. LOL

  3. I don’t remember Lancet but my Dad always watched the westerns. Gunsmoke, Palladin, Wagon Train and Cheyenne. Lancet sounds like a great show.. Thanks for your post and link to watch the first season.

    1. Carol, I know my mom got sick of watching westerns and then the wave of cop shows that hit not long after that. She did watch her soaps during the day though, and we usually ate on tv trays in front of the tv, even back then. Dad worked in the oil fields and we never knew exactly what time he’d be home, but I guess she figured she could put up with westerns if he enjoyed them that much–and he did. So did I. For a long time that was the majority of what was on. OH, and we loved the variety shows, too. Miss those, too!

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    Oh my I do not remember ever seeing anything about this series. My mother would love it! She’s a huge western movie/series person! A couple years ago she started refusing to pay for satellite tv so I got her a digital antenna and she gets the channel GRIT, which I had never even heard of, and absolutely loves it. Thanks for sharing. Your blog set off a light bulb for me. My mother is too old to handle technology and often the weather or wind causes her signal issues, not to mention we live in the middle of no where. I need to get her either a DVD player or CD player and get her some westerns for when her signal is bad.

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      I forgot…Old school westerns I loved Gunsmoke, first because of Little Joe but Hoss cracked me up too. There were many westerns I enjoyed. Kids these days are missing a lot of great shows. Modern day Westerns I love Yellowstone and enjoyed Longmire.

    2. Oh, yes, Stephanie! Your mom needs a DVD player! There are so many great western movies out there and it would be awesome if she could just put on whatever one she wanted to watch. I know during the flooring saga I just went through, when I was holed up in the bedroom with the dogs, I had the western channel, but they replayed a lot of the same movies over and over again. :((((

  5. I can’t remember is we watched Lancer of not we most likely did because if it was a western my father was there to watch it. We sure watched all the other westerns of TV

    1. Quilt Lady, my dad was the same way. And it really was a well-scripted western for the times. It still remains my favorite.

  6. I really liked Lancer and I liked The Iron Horse

    1. OH, The Iron Horse!Debra, I’d forgotten that one. Thanks for the reminder!

  7. I did not know about Lancer. My favorite was Gunsmoke.

    1. Estella, I love Gunsmoke, too. After being on the air so long, those characters became like family, didn’t they? Kind of how I felt about Star Trek–I think I watched every episode in the original Star Trek show so many times I’ve got them all memorized!

  8. I remember Lancer. I thought James Stacey was very handsome. I watched several westerns. Big Valley, Bonanza, and Gunsmoke were my favorites.

    1. On The Western Channel, they run The Big Valley every day. It was fun to watch those episodes again during my flooring saga, because I really loved to watch Barbara Stanwyck in action. She was a force to be reckoned with. When I worked at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum many years ago, they opened a gallery for western tv and movie stars and they had one of her outfits on display. SHE WAS TINY! I loved her even more after I saw that and realized she was so petite, but she was so forceful!

  9. I loved Bonanza, The Big Valley, The Rifleman and many others!

    1. OH, The Rifleman! LOVE THAT SHOW! You know what amazes me is how, “back in the day”, scriptwriters were able to capture a full, interesting story from start to finish in only 30 minutes! I’m sure glad they expanded most shows to an hour as time went by. But I have a lot of admiration for their ability to do a conclusive, coherent story in such a short time period, too!

  10. Great post, Cheryl. Fun, fun, fun! At my age, I remember them all, but I’d have to say Bonanza was my favorite but it was because Dan Blocker was my aunt’s cousin, so I really loved Hoss. I used to tell people he was my cousin, although be belonged to my beautiful Aunt Martha who was married to my uncle. Thanks for a trip down memory lane. Love you.

    1. I don’t recall Lancer at all, but my family was into Gunsmoke. I loved anything western!

      1. Oh for Pete’s sake! How did my reply end up on Phyliss comment? Oh Phyliss, I’m sorry, I obviously clicked something wrong. Technology is not my friend today. Haha!

        1. Susan, it’s okay–my response to Phyliss is under your comment–technology is not our friend, but it’s okay. We will figure it out! LOL Like you, I loved anything western. I had a little Annie Oakley outfit that my mom kept through the years for me. I got my daughter’s picture in it when she was the same age–so cute. I had some of those little “pearl handle” cap guns, too, and those were my treasures!

    2. OMG! What a great “claim to fame”, Phyliss! AWESOME! I really loved him–I’m sure it was quite a feat for him to play the “big dumb guy” being as smart and well-educated as he was in real life. I always thought he would be one of those people I would love to know. Thanks for stopping by–I’m headed over to your post from yesterday here in bit to comment–a day late and a dollar short–wasn’t on the computer much at all yesterday with the bad weather and trying to get everything livable again. LOL Hugs, Phyliss! Xoxo

  11. I’ve never heard of Lancer. I enjoyed The Rifleman.

    1. Caryl, I loved The Rifleman, too. I had a major crush on Chuck Connors. MAJOR. LOL

  12. Oh my, I do hope your flooring is done soon. Dont want to loose your lovely hair. I never saw this show. I was a huge western tv fan. I love Bonanza, The Rifleman, Gunsmoke etc. I loved all of John Waynes movies, especially McClintock, Cahill, The Cowboys. There were some wonderful western movies.

    1. Hi Lori! You made me laugh this morning, and I sure needed it. They are still having to come fix little things even now, nearly 4 weeks into the flooring project. SIGH. Never. Again. But I do love the way it looks, and I’m planning on getting some pretty area rugs to go in a couple of the rooms, too. That will be the easy part, I hope. LOL

      I loved all the John Wayne movies, too. WONDERFUL STUFF. They don’t make ’em like they used to, that’s for sure.

  13. I loved Lancer!! Johnny was my favorite character, and I’ve watched plenty of shoes with James Stacy in them! I also loved The Guns of Will Sonnet. I was 7 when it ended, and I was heartbroken. I liked that they found his father, but I was in love with Dack Rambo, and knew the show was over. I watched him on other shows, too, like Dirty Sally, the spinoff from Gunsmoke. I still watch Gunsmoke every day, along with Laramie and Wagon Train. On weekends, it’s Big Valley, and sometimes Rawhide.

    1. Trudy, I was soooo in love with Johnny, too. And I was in love with Dack Rambo, too. LOL Westerns RULE! Love them all!

  14. I was and still am hooked on Westerns. In fact, as I write this I am watching the premiere episode of The Big Valley and I have The Rifleman and Wagon Train waiting for me!

    1. Oh, I would love to see the premiere ep of The Big Valley! You know, that was one I wasn’t that crazy about when it was on, but I was young then. Now that I’m older, I love it!!!!

      1. My mom was a single mom and during the winter we would watch the Westerns and do Color-by-Number pictures. Good memories.

        1. Oh, yes! Those were good times, weren’t they? I remember how my mom would iron when it got cooler in the evenings, and we’d turn on the tv and watch old movies together.

  15. Cheryl, thank you so much for taking my blog day but feel bad for adding to your upheaval there. I was a huge Lancer fan and used Johnny Lancer to model Luke Weston aka Luke Legend after. Right down to the conchos running down each pant leg. Oh my!!!! Johnny Lancer sure made my heart flutter. Yes, ma’am. I was devastated when James Stacey had a motorcycle accident and they had to amputate his leg. So sad.

    1. Linda, please think nothing of it. I think I LIVE in a state of upheaval. LOL Hope you got all moved in and that your internet is up and running great now. I have been using my laptop only while this flooring stuff has been going on, and TODAY I’m going to finally get to go into my office and use my desktop–whenever I can figure out how to get over to my desk! LOL But at least it’s hooked up and running.

      Oh, yes, I loved Johnny Lancer, too. Made my heart flutter, as well, and Scott wasn’t too hard on the eyes, either! So glad you popped in today and that you’re getting all settled in!

      Love you!

  16. I don’t think I ever saw a Lancer program. I was and am a big fan of westerns, so was a bit surprised. It wasn’t until I got to the dates it aired that I understood. I was in the Peace Corps without TV from 1968 to the summer of 1971. No TV there. I didn’t even know about the moon landing until after the fact. It sounds like a show I would have enjoyed.
    Bonanza was a favorite, but I watched them all: Rifleman, Annie Oakley, Roy Rogers, Zorro, Bat Masterson, Paladin, Wagon Train, Sky King, Rawhide, Dr. Quinn, Young Riders, Wild, Wild West, etc. I would love to see a good western series come back to TV.

    I feel your pain with the mess having the floors done. We are going to have to replace the family room and kitchen floors and I dread it. There is too much stuff to move, including a slate topped pool table. Actually, that piece of floor is the only one that our dog with the broken back didn’t destroy. We had to gut our 1898 house and completely redo it, and yes, that can push a couple really close to divorce. We did pretty well. The biggest problem now, is I have gotten used to having boxes and furniture stacked all over and living with it. It is an archeological dig every time I work on a section of the mess. I hope you get moved “back in” and everything set up soon.

    1. Well, Patricia, that explains a LOT! LOL! I’m so thankful we have them all on film/disc so we are able to go back and watch them as many times as we want, enjoying them over and over again. Like you, I’d love to see a good western series come back to tv.

      I guess divorce is out of the question after 43 years together. LOL! But I sure was wishing for a bottle of wine or two while all that was going on. LOL I’m making slow but steady progress on getting everything put back where it was. It’s kind of good in a way because I’m thinking this way, I ‘ll be able to get rid of a lot of things I might not have gotten rid of otherwise.

  17. I had never heard of Lancer until it was on either H&I or Start tv, two networks that just started being broadcast in our area this past weekend. Sunday afternoon one of them had westerns including High Chapparal and Lancer.

    I enjoyed a lot of the westerns that used to be on. The Virginian was my favorite.

    1. I loved High Chaparral too. Both of those, Lancer and High Chaparral were on about the same time. So glad you have a way to see Lancer now! AWESOME!

  18. Bonanza and Gunsmoke

    1. Both awesome shows, Denise. I used to be in love with Adam on Bonanza. LOL

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