Still Charming After 50 years
by Herbie J Pilato
In the history of television westerns, Alias Smith and Jones stands out from the pack.
The small screen answer to the 1969 Paul Newman/Robert Redford feature film, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Alias Smith and Jones combined a seriocomic premise and tone, entertaining stories, witty dialogue, ground-breaking cinematography, and likable performances.
The one-hour series presented a new form of TV western which was generated by the 1970 ABC TV-movie The Young Country produced by Universal Studios.
Produced, written, and directed by Roy Huggins of Maverick, The Fugitive, Renegade, and Run For Your Life fame, The Young Country was a backdoor series pilot starring Walter Brennan and Joan Hackett. The film also starred Roger Davis and Pete Duel in dynamic roles that were not too distant from Hannibal Heyes, the same character they both eventually played on Alias Smith and Jones.
But network TV was not yet ready for something as innovative as The Young Country, which, even then, was too contemporary in its presentation. According to Davis, “ABC wanted a more traditional Western starring Clint Walker,” which eventually materialized one year later as Yuma, an Aaron Spelling production that also did not make it to series.
With both Yuma and The Young Country out of the picture, Huggins switched gears to executive producer and episodic scribe for a similar Western concept that was ultimately rebooted by producer Glen A. Larson as Alias Smith and Jones….
Writer/producer Herbie J Pilato is the host of the TV talk show THEN AGAIN WITH HERBIE J PILATO, now streaming on Amazon Prime and the author of several pop-culture/media tie-in books. He has been part of TVWriter™ for over 20 years and is Contributing Editor Emeritus. Learn more about Herbie J HERE