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. Nichols' personal concern is not usually law enforcement but rather finding a way to get rich with very little effort.
John Beck was cast as Ma Ketcham's oldest son (known simply as Ketcham) who constantly is butting heads with Nichols. The role of Ketcham was greatly reduced after the first few episodes, though never completely written out. Towards the end of the first season, Beck, still a series regular, appeared in two episodes in the completely unrelated role of Orv, an old friend who gets Nichols into trouble with his schemes. Despite their identical appearances, no-one on the show commented on the resemblance between Ketcham and Orv.
Stuart Margolin played Mitch Mitchell who was assigned to be 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 Salter's Hotel. Other townsfolk are seen frequently in supporting roles: see the list of recurring characters below for further details.
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.
Garner wore three different hats in the main with his costumes during the course of the series: a cavalry hat, a striped cap for riding motorcycles, and finally an approximate duplicate of his black cowboy Maverick hat. One episode, "Fight of the Century," was more or less a remake of the second half of the Maverick episode "Stampede," with Garner trying to persuade a genial animal-loving giant into fighting a professional in a boxing match, then winding up having to replace the reluctant giant and fight the boxer himself. The primary difference between the two fights was that Garner, now more than a dozen years older, wore a nightshirt while boxing in the Nichols version.
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 unarmed 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. Jim administered justice in a somewhat more conventional (and it was hoped, popular) Western fashion, was offered the job of sheriff by Ma Ketcham, then rode out of town on a motorcycle, saying he expected he might come back sometime. This solution made recasting and retitling the program unnecessary while allowing for considerable changes, and leaving the door open for a second season. 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.) Garner offered an alternate version in his Archive of American Television interview, stating that once the series was canceled, Garner insisted on killing the lead character in the series' last episode so that there could never be a revival.
When interviewed for Emmy TV Legends, Garner 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 from 1957 to 1961. 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 Sara "Ma" Ketcham
- John Beck as Ketcham/Orv
- Stuart Margolin as Deputy Sheriff Mitch Mitchell
- John Harding as Salter, owner of Salter's Bar (10 episodes)
- James Lee Reeves as Fearless (8 episodes)
- Luis Delgado as Luis (7 episodes, 3 uncredited)
- M. Emmet Walsh as Gabe McCutcheon (6 episodes)
- Barbara Collentine as Charlotte, the telegraph operator (6 episodes)
- Stefan Gierasch as Doc Bernstein (5 episodes)
- Richard Bull as Thatcher (5 episodes)
- James Beach as Bob Sanders (4 episodes)
- William Christopher as Niles (4 episodes)
- William Paterson as Perkins, the town banker (4 episodes)
- Paul Hampton as Johnson, a con artist and thief (3 episodes)
Alice Ghostley guested in two episodes as Bertha, owner of a rival tavern to Salter's.
- Val Avery
- Scatman Crothers
- Jack Elam
- Steve Forrest
- Harrison Ford (uncredited as a Cowboy in Episode 24: Bertha)
- 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.
Episode 1-20 described as "About Jessie James" , is titled "Man of the Cloth" on the DVD. "About Jessie James" is an alternate title.
"Bertha" is episode 21 on the DVD.
Below are the episodes in the order that they appear in the DVD collection. As noted above, episodes 04 and 09 are incorrectly switched for each other.
|DVD order||Episode title||Original airdate|
|01||"Nichols"||September 16, 1971|
|02||"The Siege"||September 23, 1971|
|03||"The Indian Giver"||September 30, 1971|
|04||"The Paper Badge"||October 7, 1971|
|05||"Gulley vs Hansen"||October 14, 1971|
|06||"Deer Crossing"||October 21, 1971|
|07||"The Specialists"||October 28, 1971|
|08||"Peanuts and Crackerjacks"||November 4, 1971|
|09||"Ketcham Power"||November 11, 1971|
|10||"The One Eyed Mule's Time Has Come"||November 22, 1971|
|11||"Away the Rolling River"||December 7, 1971|
|12||"Where Did Everybody Go?"||November 30, 1971|
|13||"The Marrying Fool"||December 28, 1971|
|14||"Eddie Joe"||January 4, 1972|
|15||"Zachariah"||January 11, 1972|
|16||"The Unholy Alliance"||January 18, 1972|
|17||"Sleight of Hand"||February 1, 1972|
|18||"Wings of an Angel"||February 8, 1972|
|19||"Man of the Cloth" aka "About Jessie James"||February 15, 1972|
|20||"Fight of the Century"||February 22, 1972|
|21||"Bertha"||November 18, 1971|
|22||"Man's Best Enemy"||February 29, 1972|
|23||"Wonder Fizz Flies Again"||March 7, 1972|
|24||"All In the Family"||March 14, 1972|
Nichols was broadcast on American Forces Network Television in Germany in the early 1980s. "Nichols" was also broadcast in Iran, specifically in Isfahan, during 1978. "Nichols" is currently broadcast on the GetTV network.
- "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