In the early 1970s, tv star James Garner tried to reinvent the TV western with the series Nichols.
Created by Frank Pierson, the series decided to take a different view of a typical western.
Starring James Garner as the lead character, Garner portrayed an Army man who comes home to his small town in Arizona and gets shoved into the job of sherriff by the family now running the town.
But he’s not interested in being a lawman, doesn’t want to use a gun and rides a motorcycle or drives a car instead of riding a horse. He’s more interested in spending time with a barmaid named Ruth (played by Margot Kidder) and making money.
Receiving low ratings in its first episodes that debuted in September 1971 on NBC, the writers decided to reinvent the series, by killing off the lead character and introducing his identical twin brother to avenge his death.
Renaming the series James Garner as Nichols, the series refocused on a more typical western, administering frontier justice. But NBC cancelled the series, and re-ran the episodes in early 1972 to fill the gap in programming.
Garner felt the series was never given the proper chance since it was unconventional and its sponsor, Chevrolet, didn’t like the story lines that went against the grain of a traditional western.
Garner’s brief return to Warner Bros. (where he had made the successful Maverick TV series) allowed him to meet two key people – one who would become his co-star on his next series and one that would become his producer on the same series – The Rockford Files.