Nichols (TV series)
Title card screenshot
|Also known as||James Garner as Nichols|
|Created by||Frank Pierson|
|Written by||Juanita Bartlett
Gene L. Coon
Theodore J. Flicker
James L. Henderson
|Directed by||John Badham
|Country of origin||USA|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||24|
|Executive producer(s)||Meta Rosenberg|
|Running time||60 mins. (approx)|
|Original release||September 16, 1971 – March 14, 1972|
Nichols (also known as James Garner as Nichols) is an American Western television series starring James Garner broadcast in the United States on NBC during the 1971-72 season. Set in the fictional town of Nichols, Arizona, in 1914, Nichols differed from traditional Western series of the era. The main character, a sheriff, rode on a motorcycle and in an automobile rather than on the traditional horse. Nichols did not carry a firearm and was generally opposed to the use of violence to solve problems, preferring other means. Margot Kidder portrayed Ruth, his love interest and a barmaid at Salters.
After 18 years in the army, Nichols decides to quit after the introduction of a new, deadlier type of machine gun. Although Nichols first name is never spoken aloud, his army induction papers, seen clearly in the opening moments of the pilot episode, give "Frank" as his first name (also the first name of series creator Frank Pierson). Nichols comes back in the town founded by his family to learn that it has been taken over by another family, the Ketchams. At the end of the pilot episode, matriarch Ma Ketcham (Neva Patterson), blackmails Nichols into serving as the town sheriff, a position which carried little actual authority but considerable danger. John Beck was cast as Ma Ketcham's oldest son who constantly is butting heads with Nichols. Stuart Margolin plays Mitch Mitchell who is Nichols' deputy, either in spite of or because he was none too bright, none too honest and something of a bully. Nichols soon finds a love interest in Ruth (Margot Kidder), a barmaid who works at Salters. (Alice Ghostley) plays Bertha who owns another bar in town. Nichols' personal concern is not usually law enforcement but rather finding a way to get rich with very little effort.
Nichols marked the first time since Maverick that Garner had worked with Warner Brothers. After suing Warner over Maverick, Garner was banned from the lot by Jack Warner.
The series did not do well in the ratings and was quickly retitled James Garner as Nichols in October 1971 to capitalize on the star's popularity. The low ratings also resulted in the decision by the program's producers to kill off the title character in the final episode to retool the series. The pacifist Nichols was shot down, to be avenged by his identical twin brother, Jim Nichols (also portrayed by Garner), who arrived in town with exactly the same haircut but wearing a vigorous mustache, and administered justice in stereotypical (and it was hoped, popular) Western fashion. This solution made recasting and retitling the program unnecessary while allowing for considerable changes. However this episode proved to be the final one; before it aired NBC cancelled the series, rerunning the earlier episodes in the summer of 1972. (One previously pre-empted episode featuring the original Nichols was also run in the summer.)
James Garner when interviewed for Emmy TV Legends indicated that Nichols was one of his favorite roles. In the interview he indicated that the failure of the show was due to a presentation of the show to executives at Chevrolet. The car company had originally offered to sponsor the show in full but, after the screening of the pilot, a wife of one of the executives complained that Nichols was not Maverick the popular series that Garner starred in during the 1950s. As a result, Chevrolet indicated they would only sponsor half the show forcing Garner, Warner and NBC to hunt for other sponsors in a very competitive market.
Garner has stated that, despite the low ratings of the series, Nichols had better ratings than any show launched the following season on NBC and that the ratings for the series steadily improved which gave Garner, Warner and his producers hope that the show would be renewed.
Garner discovered Stuart Margolin, his frequent co-star on this series and The Rockford Files, while watching an episode of the anthology comedy series Love American Style. He also promoted his agent Meta Rosenberg to the role of producer for the series. She would continue to work as a producer for Garner's The Rockford Files as well. Juanita Bartlett, frequent writer for The Rockford Files and screenplay writer of the Garner TV-movie The New Maverick, also began her career on Nichols.
- James Garner as Frank Nichols/Jim Nichols
- Margot Kidder as Ruth
- Neva Patterson as Ma Sara Ketchum
- John Beck as Ketcham
- Stuart Margolin as Deputy Sheriff Mitch Mitchell
- Alice Ghostley as Bertha
- M. Emmet Walsh as Gabe McCutcheon
- Val Avery
- William Christopher
- Scatman Crothers
- Jack Elam
- Steve Forrest
- Jennifer Gan
- Bo Hopkins
- Rance Howard
- Don Keefer
- Strother Martin
- Ricardo Montalban
- John Rubinstein
- Robert F. Simon
- Tom Skerritt
- Susan Tyrrell
- Joyce Van Patten
- Anthony Zerbe
|Episode #||Episode title||Original airdate|
|1-1||"Nichols"||September 16, 1971|
|1-2||"The Siege"||September 23, 1971|
|1-3||"The Indian Giver"||September 30, 1971|
|1-4||"Paper Badge"||October 7, 1971|
|1-5||"Gulley vs Hansen"||October 14, 1971|
|1-6||"Deer Crossing"||October 21, 1971|
|1-7||"The Specialists"||October 28, 1971|
|1-8||"Peanuts and Crackerjacks"||November 4, 1971|
|1-9||"Ketcham Power"||November 11, 1971|
|1-10||"Bertha"||November 18, 1971|
|1-11||"The One Eyed Mule's Time Has Come"||November 22, 1971|
|1-12||"Where Did Everybody Go?"||November 30, 1971|
|1-13||"Away the Rolling River"||December 7, 1971|
|1-14||"The Marrying Fool"||December 28, 1971|
|1-15||"Eddie Joe"||January 4, 1972|
|1-16||"Zachariah"||January 11, 1972|
|1-17||"The Unholy Alliance"||January 18, 1972|
|1-18||"Sleight of Hand"||February 1, 1972|
|1-19||"Wings of an Angel"||February 8, 1972|
|1-20||"About Jessie James"||February 15, 1972|
|1-21||"Fight of the Century"||February 22, 1972|
|1-22||"Man's Best Enemy"||February 29, 1972|
|1-23||"Wonder Fizz Flies Again"||March 7, 1972|
|1-24||"All In the Family"||March 14, 1972|
- The 10th episode titled "Bertha" with guest star Alice Ghostley was telecast on NBC on November 18, 1971, instead of the originally scheduled episode "Away the Rolling River." "Bertha" was the last episode in the program's Thursday time slot.
On September 10, 2013, Warner Bros. released Nichols: The Complete Series on DVD in Region 1 via their Warner Archive Collection. This is a Manufacture-on-Demand (MOD) release, available exclusively in the US and only through Warner's online store.
It should be noted that the DVD release mislabels two episodes. Disc 1, Episode 4 is not "Paper Badge" as labeled on the disc, but is instead "Ketchum Power." And Disc 3, Episode 1 which is labelled as "Ketchum Power" is actually "Paper Badge." "Paper Badge" can easily be identified as it guest stars Joyce Van Patten.
- "Nichols". Archive of American Television.
- contemporaneous notes
- "Nichols DVD news: Announcement for Nichols - The Complete Series,' Starring James Garner and Margot Kidder, on DVD - TVShowsOnDVD.com". tvshowsondvd.com.
- Brooks, Tim and Marsh, Earle, The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows