The Young Riders
|The Young Riders|
DVD cover of the first Season 1 box set
|Created by||Ed Spielman|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||3|
|No. of episodes||68 (list of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||Jonas McCord, Scott Shepherd|
|Running time||45–48 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Ogiens/Kane Company
|Original release||September 20, 1989– July 23, 1992|
The Young Riders is an American western television series created by Ed Spielman that presents a fictionalized account of a group of young Pony Express riders (some of whom are young versions of legendary figures in Old West history) based at the Sweetwater Station in the Nebraska Territory during the years leading up to the American Civil War. The series premiered on ABC on September 20, 1989 and ran for three seasons until the final episode aired on July 23, 1992.
Filming of the original pilot for the series took place in California. After the ABC network picked it up, the series production moved to Tucson, Arizona, with filming in "Mescal", a western-themed movie town operated by Old Tucson Studios.
Before the series premiere, producers of the 1988 film Young Guns filed a lawsuit against ABC and the series producers, claiming the series title combined with its plot infringed on their trademark.
In the second season, Don Franklin joined the cast to portray the character Noah Dixon. In doing so, he became the third African-American actor to hold a starring role in a television western – after Raymond St. Jacques, who had co-starred on the final season of Rawhide as cattle drover Simon Blake (1965) and Otis Young, who co-starred with Don Murray on the short-lived (1968–69) TV series The Outcasts. Having never ridden a horse before, Franklin was sent to "Cowboy Camp" for 3–4 days where he learned how to mount and dismount, and the basics of riding. Desiring to also work behind the cameras, Franklin talked with producers about writing and directing an episode for the series. In an interview, he noted that the series producers were very receptive and was regularly encouraging the cast to not only make suggestions, but also follow through with them. When the cast noted that they didn't like the series becoming a "guest-villain-of-the-week", it was changed to refocus back on the individual characters and their relationships with each other. Franklin himself also encouraged that more black characters be included in the series.
Cast and characters
Aloysius "Teaspoon" Hunter (Anthony Zerbe)
A former Texas Ranger and one of the few survivors of the Battle of the Alamo. A colorful yet immensely wise character, Teaspoon can be a tough task master but he cares about all of his riders.
The Kid (Ty Miller)
A soft-spoken southerner. He loves his horse, Katy, who he purchased by winning the money to buy her in a boxing match. He is the first of the riders to learn that Lou is a girl, and he falls in love with her.
James Butler Hickok (Josh Brolin)
Wild Bill is hot-tempered and quick to go for his gun. He is a fast draw and gains a reputation as a gunslinger that he doesn't particularly want as it causes people to come challenge him. His temper frequently gets him in trouble, though Teaspoon and Sam try to help him learn to control it.
Louise "Lou" McCloud (Yvonne Suhor)
Lou presents herself as a man so that she can join the riders. The Kid finds Lou out in the first episode, and the other riders when they help her rescue her brother and sister from their abusive outlaw father. She eventually falls in love with and marries The Kid.
Sam Cain (Brett Cullen)
The current marshal of Sweetwater, and a former gunslinger. He is in love with Emma and she finally marries him at the end of Season 1. Because of his own past, Sam tries to help Hickok deal with his growing gunslinger reputation.
Ike McSwain (Travis Fine)
Ike is mute and bald, but that doesn't keep him from being an excellent rider. He is particularly close to Buck, who taught him sign language. Ike can be very passionate about protecting people.
Noah Dixon (Don Franklin)
A free-born black man who joins the Riders in the second season.
Emma Shannon (Melissa Leo)
The caretaker of the station and the riders. Though she can be just as tough as Teaspoon when the riders do wrong, she tries to be a mother to them all. She is in love with Marshal Cain, but because of her past, she hesitated to marry him until the end of the first season.
Rachel Dunn (Clare Wren)
Rachel takes on the role of station caretaker after Emma leaves.
Many prominent actors guest-starred on the show, including Mitchell Ryan, Rob Estes, Chris Penn, Lloyd Bochner, Jay O. Sanders, Ted Shackleford, Roger Rees, James Gammon, Meg Foster, Kelli Williams, Fisher Stevens, Della Reese, Melissa Michaelsen, David Carradine, Stacy Keach, Sr., Pernell Roberts, David Soul, Cynthia Nixon, Richard Roundtree, Buck Taylor, Nick Ramus, Jamie Walters, Frances Fisher, Noble Willingham, James Cromwell, William Russ, John Slattery, Rebecca Staab, Peter MacNicol, Tim Thomerson, Stan Shaw, Bart the Bear, Brian Keith, Park Overall, Brian Bonsall, John Schuck, Gloria Reuben, Khrystyne Haje, Gary Sandy, John DeLancie, Tammy Grimes, Frederic Forrest, William Sanderson, Sydney Walsh, Cassie Yates, Robert Clohessy, and Jenny O'Hara
In its first year on the air, The Young Riders was plagued by low ratings. In November 1989, it ranked 60th out of 84 programs for its time slot in the Nielsen ratings. In its second season, the series was given a new timeslot  and made a dramatic turn around, winning its time slot five out of its first seven weeks, and consistently outperformed the other critically acclaimed shows on the night China Beach and Twin Peaks. Though still only ranked 57th in the Nielsen Ratings, it began building a "small, but loyal" following among teens and young adults.
Diane Holloway of the Austin American-Statesman felt it offered a new take on the standard Western, and praised the series for its "beautiful" cinematography. The Philadelphia Inquirer's Ken Tucker heavily criticized the series when it premiered considering it "one of the season's most pretentious bombs" and feeling "everything about [it] is overdone" including the acting. Considering it a rip off of the films Young Guns and The Long Riders, Tucker considered the series failed at period authenticity and thought the riders dressed no different from 1980s young adults. Writing for The Atlanta Journal, Phil Kloer agreed with Tucker, also calling the series a rip off of Young Guns. Kloer considered the pilot to be "not particularly good or bad", and felt the series was doomed to fail quickly. He did, however, praise the series cinematography as being "more like a film than a TV series, very beautiful with lots of soft light". Ron Miller of TV Weekly, however, praised the series when it was released. As it entered its second season, he renewed his praise, noting the more successful series was now "thumbing its nose at all the prognosticators" who had considered it unlikely to succeed.
All three seasons of the show were available to view via Netflix (streaming only) from November 2010 - February 2012.
TGG Direct released season 3 on DVD in Region 1 for the very first time on January 29, 2013. They also re-released the first season on the same day. Season 2 was released on October 22, 2013. However, due to clearance issues, the episodes "Born to Hang," "Bad Company," "Blood Money," and "Littlest Cowboy" were excluded. Another Season 2 set was released in 2014. In addition to the four episodes excluded from the 2013 release, the 2014 set also excludes the episodes "Dead Ringer" and "The Play's the Thing".
Episodes are currently (early 2017) shown daily and Wednesday nights on Get TV.
As of September 2016, the entire series can be watched via Starz streaming services.
- Lacey, Gord (2006-01-06). "The Young Riders — Yee-Haw! Baldwin and Brolin saddle up on DVD this March...thanks in part to YOU!". TVShowsOnDVD.com. Retrieved 2008-03-18.
- Zollinger, Norman (1989-09-17). "Television; For the Western Serial, Time to Saddle Up Again". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-04-11.
- Kloer, Phil (September 20, 1989). "'Riders' Destined to High-Tail it Off the Air - Television Review". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. p. D9. ISSN 1539-7459.
- May, Mitchell (September 5, 1991). "Tinseltown not all glitter for 'Young Riders' co-star". Fort Worth Star-Telegram. p. E8. ISSN 0889-0013.
- Holloway, Diane (1989-11-16). "'Young Riders' puts new face on Western: Show ranks tops in quality, No. 60 in Nielsens". Austin American-Statesman. Austin, Texas. p. B6. ISSN 1553-8451.
- "'Young Riders' thriving on Saturdays after surviving Thursday shootout". Baltimore Sun.
- Miller, Ron (December 2, 1990). "Young Riders Outguns the Competition". TV Weekly. p. 3.
- Tucker, Ken (September 20, 1989). "3 Premieres in Prime Time, But Two Are Far From Prime 'Peaceable Kingdom,' 'The Young Riders' and 'The Nutt House' Provide a Night of Diverse Debuts". Philadelphia Inquirer. p. D01. ISSN 0885-6613.
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- "Young Riders Complete Season Three".
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- "Young Riders Season Two".
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- "The Young Riders".