Wednesday, August 15, 2012

From Primetime to Daytime: The Lone Ranger (1949)

In the early days of television, the networks didn't think it necessary to program on Saturday mornings. When they finally did, they often repurposed primetime shows that they felt were suitable for the entire family to watch, not just the small fry. This practice gradually changed during the 60's, but, as we all know, it reverted when ABC began repurposing Disney Channel programming over the last decade.

As early as 1960, NBC began airing reruns of The Lone Ranger on Saturdays to fill time. The series had actually started 11 years earlier, so it is considered one of the earliest television shows in recorded history.

Everyone knew the story of a Texas Ranger, John Reid (Clayton Moore), the lone survivor of an attack staged by outlaw Butch Cavendish (a pre-Gunsmoke Glenn Strange). Nursed back to health by Tonto (Jay Silverheels), Reid decides to let Cavendish and everyone else assume he is dead, adopting the guise of the Lone Ranger to continue his career as a lawman. The series had started on radio, broadcast out of WXYZ in Detroit. Coincidentally, the station was also home to The Green Hornet, and the producers had linked the two shows together by making Britt Reid (Green Hornet) a blood relative of John Reid, the Lone Ranger.

Moore left the series for 2 years, during which time John Hart took over as the Ranger (and would reprise in a guest appearance on Happy Days several years later), and in this writer's opinion, the quality of the product didn't really drop.

I first became familiar with the Ranger when reruns of the radio series began airing on a local radio station in the early 70's. Cable brought reruns of the TV show, airing on WPIX weekday afternoons. The two animated incarnations of the series have previously been reviewed here, and we covered this series over at The Land of Whatever several months back. Fred Foy, who'd later announce for Dick Cavett, handled announcing chores on both TV & radio for The Lone Ranger, while fellow radio veteran Gerald Mohr narrated many early tales, including the three-part origin story....

With a new feature film starring Johnny Depp as Tonto due next year, there may be a renewed interest in not only this series, but the 1966 & 1980 animated incarnations. Let's hope.

Rating: A.

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