Walker, Texas Ranger

Walker, Texas Ranger

1993 - United States

If you're a fan of action-packed, good ol' American television, then chances are you've heard of the iconic TV series, Walker, Texas Ranger. Starring none other than the legend himself, Chuck Norris, this show brought some serious badassery to our screens for a whopping eight seasons. From its first episode to its last, Walker, Texas Ranger, with its intense action sequences, had audiences sitting on the edge of their seats, holding their breath, and rooting for justice to prevail week after week.

Now, let's be real here. Walker, Texas Ranger might not have been the most critically acclaimed show of all time, but it had something that many other shows lacked - heart. Each episode was packed with cheesy one-liners, over-the-top fight scenes with an emphasis on action rather than violence, and a martial arts lead actor who had once tried to despatch the legendary king of Kung Fu, Bruce Lee. And let's not forget about the epic theme song that's enough to give you goosebumps!

But what really made Walker, Texas Ranger stand out was its impact on American TV audiences. When this show first aired in 1993 with three pilot episodes, it quickly became a massive hit. People tuned in each week from September 1993 to witness Walker's relentless pursuit of justice, all while indulging in the guilty pleasure of watching bad guys get their butts kicked. It wasn't just the action that drew viewers in; it was the relatable characters, the moral dilemmas, and the sense of camaraderie within the Texas Rangers.

Norris kicked and punched his way through each episode as Sergeant Cordell Walker, a former marine turned law enforcer with a strict moral code inspired by tales of the old west. From drug trafficking to human trafficking, from racial tensions to environmental concerns, each episode showcased the power of storytelling, the importance of addressing social issues, and the impact a single character can have on the hearts and minds of millions. The audience loved it. The critics hated it.

"...so corny and predictable that it appears to be in slow-motion even when it's not...With plotlines that were old when George Burns was young, acting that makes William Shatner seem like Marlon Brando, and dialogue that could stop The Dukes of Hazzard dead in its tracks”, wrote American satirist and critic Joe Queenan.

Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris

Carlos Ray Norris was born on 10 March 1940 in Ryan, Oklahoma. He joined the United States Air Force as an Air Policeman in 1958 and whilst stationed in South Korea began training in martial arts. After leaving the Air Force in 1962 with the rank of Airman First Class, he opened a martial arts studio. In 1972, he acted as Bruce Lee's nemesis in the widely acclaimed martial arts movie Way of the Dragon, the highest-grossing film of 1972 in Hong Kong. In 1974, actor Steve McQueen, who was his martial arts student and friend at the time, saw his potential and encouraged him to begin acting classes at MGM.

In 1978, Norris starred in Good Guys Wear Black but found that he had to hawk it around theatres himself after not being able to find a studio that wanted to release it. The movie shot on a $1 million budget made over $18 million at the box office. Good Guys Wear Black launched Norris as the first successful homegrown American martial arts star. By 1990, his films had collectively grossed over $500 million worldwide.

During this period, Norris continually turned down offers to do a television series, but in 1993 he was suitably impressed by the original concept for Walker, Texas Ranger, co-developed by J. Michael Straczynski (who left to create Babylon 5) and Allison Moore. The fact that the series was to be shot close to Norris’ ranch may have had some influence on his decision.

Walker, Texas Ranger

What set Walker, Texas Ranger apart from other shows of its time was its unapologetic commitment to showcasing strong family values and the power of friendship. Walker worked closely with Alex Cahill (Sheree J. Wilson), a Tarrant County Assistant District Attorney, and two rookie Texas Rangers, Sydney Cooke (Nia Peeples), and Francis Gage (Judson Mills), who were assigned under Walker. But it was Walker's relationship with his partner, James Trivette, played by Clarence Gilyard Jr., that served as the beating heart of the show. Together, they formed an unstoppable duo, bringing order to the chaotic world they inhabited. Their on-screen chemistry was palpable, and their banter provided moments of comedic relief amidst the intense action sequences.

Walker, Texas Ranger

Walker, Texas Ranger was more than just a TV show. It became a cultural phenomenon, producing a slew of catchphrases that are still recognized today. Norris gained a whole new level of fame with his portrayal of Cordell Walker. His stoic yet charismatic presence on screen made him a household name, and his influence continues to be felt in the action genre. It may not have been the most sophisticated or critically acclaimed series, but it captured the hearts of millions with its unapologetic blend of action, drama, and good old-fashioned American values.

Published on December 4th, 2023. Written by Skip Wilson Jr. for Television Heaven.

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