Monday, September 7, 2009

The Loner--Rod Serling's TV Western Cult Favorite

Bridges as former Union officer William Colton.
With The Twlight Zone a big hit for CBS, Rod Serling launched a Western TV series in the fall of 1965. Serling was no stranger to the Western genre, having written 1958's Saddle the Wind starring Robert Taylor and John Cassavetes.

The Loner, like Saddle the Wind, was an "adult Western" that downplayed action in favor of human interest stories. And like The Twilight Zone, the series had a social conscience, this time in the form of hero William Colton, played by Lloyd Bridges. A former Union officer, Colton--like television predecessors Tod and Buz in Route 66--was in search of "something." His travels into the West lead to encounters with various individuals whose stories form the basis of each episode.

The first "An Echo of Bugles," stars Whit Bissell (the hardest working actor in the late 1950 and 1960s) as a former Confederate being harassed by a young punk who throws the old man's Rebel flag on the floor. Colton interecedes and calmly (yet forcefully) states:

"I don't owe any allegiance to that flag either, but too many good men died for it to let me sit by and see it desecrated by a dirty little loudmouth that had no hand in bringing it down...a loudmouth who was still sucking milk and candy drops while this flag was the breeze."

The horrors of war haunt Colton.
In flashback, it's revealed that Colton killed a young Confederate soldier during a battle--only to learn that the Civil War had ended hours earlier with Lee's surrender at Appomattox. This incident drives Colton to resign his commission despite the pleadings of his senior officer.

Potent dialogue for an intriguing Western TV series. Unfortun-ately, The Loner lasted for only 26 episodes--not even a full season back in 1965. And even though Serling is considered one of the great television writers, The Loner has never made it to DVD and, sadly, probably never will. (Since I wrote this post in 2009, I'm thrilled to say that The Loner was released on DVD by Shout Factory in 2016.)

Click here to read our review of the five best episodes of The Loner.


  1. I love horses!!!! The horse Lloyd Bridges rode in The Loner is one of the most beautiful horses I have ever seen on TV or the movies. To this day, I can remember this horse. I watched every episode of this series and was sad when it was gone.

    1. The horse Lloyd Bridges rode in The Loner was an American Saddlebred Horse named Montrose Sea. Would you know if there are any pictures of this horse?

    2. If you google THE LONER and Lloyd Bridges, you can find some publicity photos of Lloyd on his rearing horse.

  2. Hey Rick Was that a young Tony Bill as Jody the Punk?

  3. You made me look it up, but, yes, Tony Bill was in an episode of "The Loner." You're good!

  4. Thank You. Tony is in one of my favorite Steve McQueen Films Solider In The Rain. Post Coming Soon.

  5. There are episodes on YouTube...not sure if the entire series is there, but there are some. I watched part of the episode with Jack Lord, "The Vespers".

  6. THE LONER is now available on DVD from Shout Factory in an exclusive arrangement with Walmart. It's hit or miss as to whether any particular store carries it, but online inventory searches could help in finding one close to you. THE LONER may get a wide release later on after the exclusivity deal ends.

  7. "The Hunt is, by far, the best sci-fi episode in television.