Saturday, August 24, 2013

FAVORITE WESTERN TV SERIES: LANCER by CHERYL PIERSON


This is the “kick-off” of our new feature here at the WESTERN FICTIONEERS BLOG about our favorite western TV shows. I’m doing an overview of the series Lancer today, created by Samuel A. Peeples. It’s one of those shows that didn’t last long enough, and still has many, many followers in the fan fiction world who continue to write stories using these characters in just about every scenario you can imagine. If you’ve never explored fan fiction, it’s pretty amazing, and there’s a fan fiction group for virtually every movie and TV series that ever came down the pike.


But what can be more exciting to a pre-teen girl than an action–packed TV western with two handsome hunky guys and a ton of family angst? The answer is…not one thing. I was glued to the TV screen every week when Lancer took off, and it was a very, very sad day when they cancelled it.Here’s a bit about Lancer, which was, then, and still is, my favorite TV western ever—and that’s saying a lot, since I was a diehard western fan from a very early age.


Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about it, in a nutshell, just so you can get the gist of the series:

Lancer is an American Western series that aired on CBS from September 1968, to May 1970. The series stars Andrew Duggan, James Stacy, and Wayne Maunder as a father with two half-brother sons, an arrangement similar to the more successful Bonanza on NBC.

Duggan stars as the less than admirable Murdoch Lancer, the patriarch of the Lancer family. Stacy appears as half-Mexican gunslinger Johnny Madrid Lancer. Wayne Maunder was cast as Scott Lancer, the educated older son (though he is younger than Stacy) and a veteran of the Union Army, in contrast to Stacy's role of former gunslinger. Paul Brinegar also appeared as Jelly Hoskins, a series regular from season two after making a one off guest appearance during the first season. Elizabeth Baur (who later replaced Barbara Anderson in 'Ironside' from season five to eight) also was a series regular cast member as Murdoch Lancer's ward Teresa O'Brien.

Guest stars included Joe Don Baker, Scott Brady, Ellen Corby, Jack Elam, Sam Elliott, Bruce Dern, Kevin Hagen, Ron Howard, Cloris Leachman, George Macready, Warren Oates, Agnes Moorehead and Stefanie Powers.

Lancer lasted for fifty-one hour-long episodes shot in color. The program was rerun on CBS during the summer of 1971.

The episode entitled "Zee" with Stefanie Powers earned scriptwriter Andy Lewis the Western Writers of America "Spur Award", the first ever designated for a television script.


Pretty impressive! With the regular cast and the very solid and vivid portrayals each of them gave of their characters, and the stellar roster of guest stars, what’s not to love? I was eleven when LANCER made its appearance, and I thought I had never seen anyone as “cute” as half-brothers Johnny and Scott Lancer. But “cuteness” was not what held my interest.

As the storyline went, Scott’s wealthy mother took him back to Boston, and he was raised as a moneyed gentleman. He served in the Civil War. Johnny’s story was different. His mother took him south of the border, to the territory she was most familiar with, and he was raised in border towns. Life was tough for him, being half-white, and as we say here, “the boy run into some trouble.” So much trouble, in fact, that the Pinkerton man Murdoch Lancer sent to find him barely got there in the nick of time, as Johnny was facing a firing squad.

Murdoch offered his sons “listening money”—to come meet him, hear what he had to offer them, and then stay, or walk away. Of course, both Johnny and Scott decide to stay after this stormy encounter. Take a look here, at the trailer CBS put together for their star show!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IhWUqLiNWLY

The mix of the characters, with Johnny having fended for himself most of his life, earning his living as a fast gun, and Scott being raised with everything money could buy, added to every plot and their general interaction. Scott had known hard times too, during the War, and he had to remind his younger brother of that from time to time. But their growing relationship as brothers, and the respect that they had for one another – and in time, for their father, was what made the show special. Growth of the characters and the way that growth was portrayed kept me glued to the screen week after week—though I couldn’t have told you that’s what it was at that age.

The show is not in syndication here in the States, at last check, but don’t despair! Here’s a link where you can catch season one, at least!

http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLB278C1B669BEA738

Johnny Lancer has been a “main character” in my imagination from the time I first saw the show. He’d lived a hard life, done some bad things, but was trying to make amends and have the life with a true family that he’d always wanted…and a place to belong. He was the youngest in his family, and so was I. His character portrayal resonated with audiences everywhere, so it was quite a surprise to learn that the show was being canceled. Yet, today, there are still people who love the show and get together online to chat about it and the characters, and write more stories about them—many of which would make fantastic Lancer episodes if the show was still being written.

Do you have a memory of Lancer? Please share if you do! And if you don’t—don’t hesitate to click those links above and see what you missed!

55 comments:

  1. Not only is it not in syndication now in the U.S., I'm not sure it ever has been, at least not on any national channels... because I've never seen it. I feel like I've missed out!

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    1. Lancer to my knowledge was last aired on cable's
      USA Network between roughly 1985 and 1987 as
      part of their Sunday Showdown lineup along with
      The Virginian starring James Drury/Doug McClure
      and Wanted--Dead Or Alive starring Steve McQueen prior to his becoming a movie star.
      All 51 episodes of the series were run.
      I ought to know--at one time I had this series
      on VHS complete from this station. I have
      seen episodes that were subsequently run
      on a Montreal, Canada TV station I assume
      in the 90's. Supposedly according to ME-TV
      at least it can't be aired today because it is
      in the wrong format for HD viewing. Fox still
      owns the rights to the show and Lancer has
      yet to officially released by anyone on DVD
      commercially. Best bet is Timeless Media
      Group for a DVD release, as they have many
      TV Western series of the 50's, 60's and 70's
      on DVD at present, all complete.

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    2. Lancer was on around 1969-1970. Anyone who has not had the pleasure of seeing this has missed out.

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    3. Wayne's character Scott was not taken back to Boston by his mother. His mother died giving him life en-route to meeting with her father whom Murdoch had sent for because his ranch was being attacked by land pirates and he wanted to keep his wife safe. She went into premature labour and died...in some backwoods town. Harlan Garret who had not approved of Murdoch taking his beloved Catherine to the wilds of California took the baby back to Boston with him and he raised him. He affectively stole Murdoch's baby. Maybe at first he felt he was doing the right thing but after a while he should've returned the child to his father but he never did.

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  2. But thankfully we have the internet, where you can at least go and watch the 1st season! LOL You did miss out! But you were only a wee babe when it made its debut--you can't be blamed. It was a darn good western!

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  3. Hi Cheryl, I do remember the show but not well as I haven't had repeats to slaver over the past 40 years LOL. I wonder if it'll ever be on Netflix or Prime...the premise is awesome, so much chance for conflict. Tragically I think James Stacy lost an arm and leg in a motor cycle accident not long after.

    Great post. Glad I can catch up on some of it. xoxox

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  4. I remember the show. Enjoyed it, but also enjoyed some of the older shows, but then they were in black and white when I was young. I say as I deny my age. There were so many...really hard for me to choose, but I could if I had to. (Maybe) Of the later show, I still enjoy "Magnificent Sever" have the series on DVD.
    Oh the memories this post brought back. Thanks!

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  5. I had forgotten all about this show, but I loved every episode back in the day. (The first one of y'all young whippersnappers who calls me an old lady gets a whuppin'.) Thanks for reminding me, Okie! I think both of the Lancer sons stuck with me subconsciously, because I see aspects of both of them in my fictional characters.

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  6. I don't remember this show on TV. It was most likely on when we watched something else. There was 7 of us and only one TV in those days. And if it was on when sport was on, forget it Mom and I were out numbered 5 to 2...
    And I love any show like this, so I would have been watching if I could.

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  7. I've never heard of this series. Most likely because I was only 6 when it first aired. It sounds like one I would have loved! I'll have to check out the link you supplied.

    My favorite western series was Alias Smith and Jones. I was eight when it aired and I was quite smitten with Pete Duel (Hannibal Heyes alias Joshua Smith). I remember being so sad when I found out Pete Duel committed suicide. I remember thinking it couldn't be true since they were airing the episodes on TV. At the time, I didn't understand these shows were prerecorded. Soon later, Roger Davis took over his role in the series, but it wasn't the same. How could it be?

    Not too long ago, I bought the complete series on DVD. I still enjoyed the series.

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    1. Karen, where did you purchase the DVD' s?

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  8. That should read "Magnificent Seven", dang those visitors, just when you think you can finish a sentence they come in and want to know what to do in the area. (Only 50+ options, sigh)
    Doris

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  9. Cheryl - Interesting post. I do remember Lancer, mainly because my older sister had a big crush on James Stacy. When he was injured in a motorcycle accident, she would constantly call the hospital several times a day in LA to get updates. And they gave her info! She even got on a first name basis with sone nurses. I think he lost an arm and a leg, not sure. But I sure remember when that phone bill came in with all those long distance calls. My parents hit the roof. lol. I was a big fan of The Big Valley (loved Heath!) and the whole family dynamic. I have only recently become addicted to Bonanza, thanks to TVLand. Never appreciated it much as a kid, but I now think it was the best western show.. Gunsmoke was good; my dad loved that show. You can hear the original radio shows on some Vintage Radio Show phone applications. I think William Conrad was better as Matt Dillon -- voice-wise. Better actor than James Arness, but Arness fit the look for TV better. Anyway, thanks for the stroll down TV Western Memory Lane. :)

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  10. Watched this show when I was in college and first married, it was on the channel we could get. I liked it, but as a kid loved, Johnny Ringo, and Cheyenne, my mom was a Sugerfoot fan. These shows may have been on before most posters were born, but they were good. Now my favorites are the black and white, Gunsmoke’s.

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  11. Tanya, yes, he did lose an arm and a leg in a motorcycle accident, but that sure didn't stop him from continuing on with his acting career. I really admire that about him. Yes, when you get a chance click the links and go take a look.
    Cheryl

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  12. Doris, there are so many good ones to choose from--seems like now when we look back on it there were very few "bad" western series. They were ALL good (especially when you look at most of what's on tv today!)
    Cheryl

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  13. Kathleen, you said it! Although I identified more with James Stacy's character, Johnny, I always admired Wayne Maunder's portrayal of the cool, calm, and collected older brother and I think I, too, have used many of their attributes in my own stories subconsciously. I would never call you an old lady, cause I remember black and white Gunsmoke...
    Cheryl

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  14. Kathleen O.--now you can click on the link and go watch some of the eps and see what you think. I hear you about being outnumbered. We had one tv in the house and when my dad was home we watched pretty much what he wanted to see, if he was in a "tv watching mood."
    Cheryl

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  15. Cheryl, I was an avid Lancer fan. I adored James Stacy and loved the developing relationship between the brothers and their father. The series should have stayed on longer.

    Other favorites were Laramie and Wagon Train, but to be honest I watched every western that came along. My dad was a huge fan and I picked up his likes much more than my mother's.

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  16. Karen, I LOVED Alias Smith and Jones! That was so tragic about Pete Duel--I remember it was at Christmas time. But that show was one that everyone in our family liked, and watched together. I even talked my mom into driving me up to Oklahoma City to see Ben Murphy when he was here and got his autograph. Big stuff for a pre-teen!
    Cheryl

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  17. Ashley, what a great story about your sister! My parents would have gone ballistic over that phone bill, too. I always loved Bonanza. I would beg my mom to let me stay up on Sunday nights to watch it, which she usually did. And Gunsmoke? LOVE THAT SHOW, and I loved it as a kid, too. Thanks for coming by!
    Cheryl

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  18. Neil, my mom was a Sugarfoot fan, too. I remember those b&w shows--one of my early favorites (and it still IS!) is Rawhide. Gil Favor always seemed to know the right thing to say and do.
    Cheryl

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  19. Lyn, I was the same way as far as loving any western that came on. Both my parents like those and so we watched a lot of tv together "back in the day". The one they didn't care for that much was The Virginian, but everything else was fair game.
    Cheryl

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  20. I never saw Lancer, but there are just so many. The Lone Ranger had me hooked, but then there was The Cisco Kid, Laramie, Have Gun Will Travel, The Virginian, The High Chapparal, Cimarron Strip, The Iron Horse, Wells Fargo....

    I loved this blog. It sent me down Memory Lane. Thanks, Cheryl!

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  21. Well, I thought I'd seen every western on TV (once we finally got a TV), but I never saw Lancer. In fact, until now I never heard of it.
    My favorite western as Maverick with James Garner. I loved the humor in it.
    I enjoyed reading about Lancer.

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  22. Hi Cheryl... thank you for including the two youtube links that you have posted here... they are to two of my Lancer themed channels... both seasons... all 52 of the episodes are in playlists there if you click on the name of the channel below the video it will take you to the channels and more links to Lancer Fan Channels... however the 'trailer' posted on TV Westerns...is not quite original... the sound track was removed and the clips re-masted or replaced because the VHS quality of what remains of Lancer is really poor... sorry for the slight deception... and thank you again for

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  23. Keith, there are truly too many to choose from to just pick one! This is going to be a monthly post here at the WF blog, so if you have a favorite series you want to blog about let me know. There are a ton of great westerns! Glad you enjoyed the post.
    Cheryl

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  24. Oh, Sarah, my mom loved Maverick. Well, I think she loved James Garner. LOL That was a great show. It's hard to write humor in westerns and make it REAL at the same time, I think.
    Cheryl

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  25. Anonymous, PLEASE post again, because part of your comment was cut off and the links you were providing were, too. That was a great trailer no matter who did it! LOL Thanks so much for coming by, and please come back and post the links and finish your comment, if you will.
    Cheryl

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  26. I was a big Johnny Madrid fan. But one of my favorites was the short-lived Cimarron Strip. It ran a hour-and-a-half and Stuart Whitman was the chisel-jawed Marshal Jim Crown.

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  27. I seem to remember Lancer, although not well. I was such a big Bonanza fan, starting at age 6, that I had to write fanfic myself and enjoyed it so much I got the producer, David Dortort, to authorize me! I also liked Rawhide as a kid, but oddly, that one didn't seem to travel as well through time as Bonanza does. I did write a Rawhide movie script, but didn't get anywhere with it.

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  28. Sorry... the Link was to a petition to have Lancer released on DVD... and one directly to the channel with the all of the Lancer Episodes Uploaded... they have season playlists on them so that you don't have to search... you will find more Lancer fan channels with videos featuring great songs and Lancer... so 'new to Lancer' viewers are aware... this fantastic western was never given the recognition it deserved because of the time slot it ran in in 1968... opposite 'I Dream Of Jeanie' and 'The Mod Squad'... the two highest rated shows of those seasons... and the way it was programed... Lancer began at 7:30 with 'Jeanie' for the first half hour... and ended at 8:30 with the first half of 'Mod Squad' ... so really bad programing is why Lancer was canceled... trying again to add the links... and thank you again... Love Lancer... http://www.youtube.com/user/YanktonTV ... http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/lancer/

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  29. Bob, I think the hour and a half long series were ignored by a large part of the audience. I know my parents were that way--it cut into the next program on another station they wanted to see. I have always loved James Whitmore. Saw him a couple of days ago in The Guns of the Magnificent Seven.
    Cheryl

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  30. WOW Monette! You were very serious! That's amazing! And you wrote a screenplay for Rawhide? I love that--it's too bad it didn't get anywhere. I think a lot of those western tv shows would have made great movies, too.
    Cheryl

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  31. Hi again, Anonymous!

    Yes, you are so right about the time slot. I loved both those other shows, and The Mod Squad was really hard to miss the first part of. Thanks for the links! It's always nice to meet a Lancer supporter!
    Cheryl

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  32. Happy Birthday, Bob! Hope you've had a great day today!
    Cheryl

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  33. I've never seen it either, Cheryl. Sad face. But I really dig the family angle -- so my fave was The Rifleman. The perfect little boy's fantasy -- Chuck Connors as a guy's trick rifle toting' protector-dad. And it was on every day after school.

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  34. Hey, we're TWINS, Cheryl! I had the same thoughts about Lancer and the two brothers as you. Plus I wanted to write about Lancer, but you beat me to it. LOL... so I'll choose a different fave next month. For two years I loved catching the weekly shows. Was so angry when they canceled the series. :-P Such good writing too!

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  35. Richard, how I loved The Rifleman! Oh, when that music came on, there was nothing like it. That was taken from a classic piece of music--I think it was called The Merry Farmer or something like that, by Schumann. I actually asked my teacher if I could learn to play it, and I did. Great show.
    Cheryl

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  36. Meg! I was angry too, when they canceled the show. I just couldn't believe it! I wrote a letter to the network. Now, I just imagine them sitting there sifting through the letters of outrage from all these teenage girls, laughing their rear ends off at what everyone wrote. Lots to say about Lancer--I just scratched the surface here--you are welcome to talk about it next month if you like!
    Cheryl

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  37. Jumping in late here. I watched "Lancer" from the very beginning; September 9th, 1968 when the black and white pilot aired on CBS. So much potential, but the show arrived at the tail end of the Western on TV era, sad to say. It didn't help that reviewers compared the show to Bonanza, which by that time had become a farce. Lancer was darker, with more conflicted characters. Unfortunately, too many of the work-for-hire writers didn't follow Peeples' lead; which diminished the show. Damn it. The show isn't available on DVD through FOX (for a variety of complex reasons), but it is available through a source from Canada, where it was rebroadcast in the '70's. TBS ran it for a time during that period, too. I've been known to burn copies for potential fans, and the quality isn't too bad. As to the fan fiction: it is out there, some very good, some that just plain reeks. But the actors -- all of them -- certainly made an impact. And the guest star list couldn't be beat: Warren Oates (Man Without a Gun, Buscaderos), Stephanie Powers (Zee) and Joe Don Baker (High Riders) to name a few, and both Tom Selleck and Sam Elliott were pegged as extras. It really is sad the show didn't thrive, because -- handled right -- it could have.

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  38. Jumping in late here. I watched "Lancer" from the very beginning; September 9th, 1968 when the black and white pilot aired on CBS. So much potential, but the show arrived at the tail end of the Western on TV era, sad to say. It didn't help that reviewers compared the show to Bonanza, which by that time had become a farce. Lancer was darker, with more conflicted characters. Unfortunately, too many of the work-for-hire writers didn't follow Peeples' lead; which diminished the show. Damn it. The show isn't available on DVD through FOX (for a variety of complex reasons), but it is available through a source from Canada, where it was rebroadcast in the '70's. TBS ran it for a time during that period, too. I've been known to burn copies for potential fans, and the quality isn't too bad. As to the fan fiction: it is out there, some very good, some that just plain reeks. But the actors -- all of them -- certainly made an impact. And the guest star list couldn't be beat: Warren Oates, Stephanie Powers and Don Baker to name a few, and both Tom Selleck and Sam Elliott were pegged as extras. It's really a shame the show didn't have a better time slot, because it could have thrived.

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  39. Don't think I ever saw Lancer. I was in the military at the time, and TV viewing in the dayroom ran more to Star Trek and variety shows. I was always a big western fan, though. My favorite was Gunsmoke, with Rawhide running a pretty close second.

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  40. Westerns have always been my favorites so I grew up watching whatever was on TV in the genre. I have a special love for Alias Smith and Jones, though, like Karen.

    There's a LiveJournal community for "lost" fan fiction shows like ASJ - here's a link for anyone else who likes the show:
    http://smallfandomfest.livejournal.com/357527.html

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  41. Hey Kit!

    So glad to see you! I knew you'd know all the particulars about why it wasn't as successful as it should have been. You're so right about the actors making an impact--when you think of it, here we are still talking about a show that only lasted two seasons over forty years after it was canceled!

    Cheryl

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  42. Bob,

    I loved Star Trek, too--in fact I just bought the boxed set of the series last month. We had them all taped from when they were run as re-runs on one of the sy-fy channels 20 years ago. LOL Rawhide was another favorite of mine, as was Gunsmoke. My husband was in the Navy and has stories of how many times they watched "Run Silent, Run Deep".
    Cheryl

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  43. J.E.S.,

    Alias Smith and Jones was one of those shows that just entertained everyone. I remember it being one that Mom would even take time out to come watch. Thanks for the link.

    Cheryl

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  44. I don't think this got an airing in UK. Could be wrong, since I was at sea at this time. Sounds like an interesting and worthwhile show; maybe one day it will make it to DVD.

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  45. Nik, I don't know--but I bet Kit would. It's really a good story--you can see Season 1 on the link I provided in the blog.
    Cheryl

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  46. Hi Cheryl... still following the Lancer... yellow brick road...thread to... LOL... Lancer... and reruns of the series did air in South America as recently as 1992... but in the UK in 1970-1971...and then only on cable which was new at the time and few could afford it.. in researching the CFCF12 logo on the VHS tapes I have... which research provides... is the call sign for 'Canada's First Canada's Finest' a British owned cable station that broadcast Lancer in the early 1970's... so... although in reruns.. Lancer was seen by fans in the UK and in most of Europe.... but sadly... not so many of them were ever offered the opportunity... in an effort to make the film that exists viewable... The Lancer Pilot episode... is on YouTube in the original Black & White move... sorry from VHS... and because it was so hard to watch... there is another version of Lancer... remastered as an 'Art Film'... it is completely reversed or backward (with noted exceptions)... recolored in Black & Light Blue... enhanced to provide better definition... and although far from perfect... more watchable... than the original pilot available... so old Lancer with variation... the links don't seem to work here.. so for fans who have watched the original and wish they could see more.. copy & paste... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9_VbQffGmoI ... Thank you again Cheryl and you might notice that Johnny draws his gun with the 'wrong' hand... ;)

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  47. I enjoyed your blog. Scott was my favorite Lancer but I loved Johnny, too. My favorite episodes featured the brothers or the brothers plus Murdoch. Just one thing that perhaps someone mentioned earlier. Scott's mother died shortly after giving birth to Scott. Harlan Garrett, Catherine's father and Scott's grandfather virtually kidnapped the baby, took him back to Boston, and raised him. Murdoch tried to get him back at the age of five, but Harlan had custody and threatened to drag Scott through the courts.

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  48. The first season has been deleted on youtube. Anyway to get it back?

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  49. The first season has been deleted on youtube. Anyway to get it back?

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  50. I named my son after Scott Lancer...I so loved the show...I just loved the show it was my favorite for a young girl...I must have been about 13 or so. What do you think of that

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    1. AWESOME! I was very young but had such a crush on Johnny. James Stacy passed away this past year. Thank goodness we still have the series to keep him and Scott forever young!

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