|Stars Brand, Brown, and Smith.|
The original series pilot aired in 1965 as the last episode of the third season of The Virginian. In "We've Lost a Train," Trampas (Doug McClure) travels through Laredo to pick a bull in Mexico for Judge Garth. Along the way, he runs afoul of Reese, Chad, and Joe--but winds up helping them retrieve stolen money from a train. As often happens with pilots, the characters here differ slightly from the ones in the eventual Laredo series. Reese is less comical and Chad isn't the ladies man that he would become.
|Brown, Doug McClure, Brand, and Smith on The Virginian.|
The Laredo TV series debuted on NBC in September 1965. Its time slot, Thursday from 8:30 to 9:30, pitted it against some tough competition: Bewitched on ABC and My Three Sons on CBS. Still, Laredo found an audience with its easygoing mix of action and humor. The latter often involved Reese being manipulated by his colleagues. In various episodes, Chad and Joe convince Reese to get into a ring with a lively bull, go undercover to catch villainous French officers, and take over as "acting captain" when Parmalee is away.
The second season of Laredo added Dutch actor Robert Wolders, who joined the cast as rookie Ranger Erik Hunter. According to some sources, the rationale for a fourth Ranger was to lighten Brand's workload. Erik was a bit of dandy and surpassed Chad as the best-dressed Texas Ranger on television. In real life, Wolders married classic movie actress Merle Oberon in 1975--she was 25 years older than him--for the last four years of her life. He later lived with Audrey Hepburn for the last decade of her life.
|Neville Brand as Reese Bennett.|
|Peter Brown as Chad Cooper.|
|William Smith as Joe Riley.|
|Carey as the put-upon Parmalee.|
NBC cancelled Laredo in 1967 after two seasons and 56 episodes. The network's decision to move the series to Friday nights at 10 P.M. likely contributed to the show's early demise. It still holds up nicely, a refreshing change from the traditional 1960s Westerns--although there are still plenty of shoot-outs and daring rescues. Laredo airs weekdays at 10:45 AM Eastern Time on GetTV.