The Rifleman originally aired from 1958 to 1963 for a total of five seasons and 168 episodes. It starred Chuck Connors as Lucas McCain, the eponymous character for the simple reason that he did all his shooting with a rifle (a Winchester). It was an early TV Western, debuting a few seasons after the start of Gunsmoke and one before Bonanza.
Anyway, the observations:
- It occurred to me that comic book artist Howard Chaykin may very well have based his whole art style on Chuck Connors. The resemblance between the two is uncanny. Distinctive jawlines and piercing stares!
- Another signature of The Rifleman is McCain's son Mark, who has a knack for getting in trouble even though he's a generally capable and bright kid. It reminds me of Wesley Crusher in Star Trek: The Next Generation.
- Speaking of Star Trek, the bond between widower Lucas and young son Mark is also reminiscent of Benjamin and Jake Sisko from Deep Space Nine. It shouldn't be too surprising to see parallels of this kind, considering Gene Roddenberry originally pitched Star Trek as "Wagon Train to the stars." Wagon Train was another TV Western.
- I know Connors from another role, "Swiftie" Morgan in Support Your Local Gunfighter, a 1971 James Garner films that also features Harry Morgan and Suzanne Pleshette. "Swiftie" is a character who looms like a specter over the whole movie, but doesn't appear until the very end. I grew up loving the name "Swiftie" Morgan.
- Director Sam Peckinpah created The Rifleman from a rejected Gunsmoke script. He eventually left the series and soon began his film career, with such hits as The Wild Bunch to his credit.
- As you might have assumed from the photo of Connors, he also had careers in professional sports, including stints in baseball (he played for the Cubs!) and basketball (he played for the Celtics!).
- The Rifleman provided early roles for Dennis Hopper and Michael Landon. Landon quickly landed Bonanza (and then Little House on the Prairie and then Highway to Heaven) after a few guest appearances.