Yes, "Walker, Texas Ranger" is now eternal


This new world of digital TV antennas has brought many things, from old Chrismas specials to PBS' 24-hour kids' TV channel. But most of all, it has meant eternal life for TV reruns. The latest addition is "Walker, Texas Ranger" -- all 196 episodes of it. Here's the story I sent to papers.

By Mike Hughes

This was the show
that just kept going.

“Walker, Texas
Ranger” lasted eight seasons – which is one more than “The West
Wing” or “Cagney & Lacey” or “Hill Street Blues.”

It was sometimes
overlooked, especially at awards time. Those other three shows
totaled 224 Emmy nominations, winning 60 times; “Walker” had one
nomination, for sound editing.

But it persisted.
“You can't kill it with a stick,” Paul Haggis used to say with a
grin.

Haggis was one of
four scriptwriters for the pilot, then never did another episode. (He
had other things to keep him busy, including the Oscar-winning
“Crash.”) But as co-creator, he has a perpetual payday.

And yes, Chuck
Norris' show seems eternal. It went to 100 countries; its reruns
persisted on cable ... and now jump into a newer world: Beginning
Monday (June 4), “Walker” has four episodes each weekday
afternoon on GetTV, which many viewers can get via digital antenna or
satellite.

Would anyone have
predicted this sort of success? Norris' co-stars insist they did.

“I knew that Chuck
had a deal for 13 episodes on the air,” Clarence Gilyard said. And
“I knew that Chuck had a huge following.”

Sheree Wilson says
she also knew Norris would succeed. “I'd already had the privilege
or working with Chuck for three months on a movie.”

Just before she was
cast in “Walker,” both had been in Israel filming “Hellbound.”
The story -- a murder mystery in which the killer turned out to be an
ancient, supernatural entity – wasn't your usual Norris kick-film;
it was shelved, then went straight to video.

By then, Norris'
career could survive any blip. “Chuck was a masculine icon,”
Gilyard said.

He had done big
business with Cold War films – two “Missing in Action” ones,
two “Delta Force” ones and “Invasion USA” -- and with
well-made cop films, “Code of Silence” and “Lone Wolf McQuade.”

The latter was the
basis in 1993 for “Walker,” the story of a modern Ranger who
reverted to old-time violence. His young colleague was played by
Gilyard, who says it was a solid match. “Both of us were from the
Air Force; we were used to being military and being physical.”

Gilyard, whose dad
was a career airman, had grown up on bases and went to the Air Force
Academy. Norris was in the Air Force, where he learned martial arts.
He became a champion, then a teacher, then a movie star. “When a
star says, 'Would you like to do a part with me?' you say yes,”
Gilyard said.

Gilyard was coming
off sidekick success on “Matlock”; Wilson was coming off
“Dallas,” where her character married Bobby Ewing (Patrick
Duffy), then -- in the Bobby's-wife tradition -- was killed.

“People don't know
that Patrick is a tremendous comedian,” Wilson said. “Patrick and
Larry (Hagman) were both like that. All they did was play.”

Norris, now 78, had
more of a no-nonsense efficiency on his set. He was, after all, doing
movie-style action scenes on a TV timetable. Still, Gilyard insists,
“Chuck is a very funny guy.”

In the final season,
Wilson's character (a prosecutor) married Walker. There was a TV
movie and then nothing ... except that “Walker: never really ends.

Now Gilyard and
Wilson, 62 and 59, are touring in “Driving Miss Daisy” onstage.
And “Walker” is persisting in the digital age. Don't try to kill
it, with or without a stick.

-- “Walker, Texas
Ranger,” 2-6 p.m. weekdays, GetTV, beginning June 4

-- GetTV is on Dish
(Channel 373) and on a digital sub-channels in most areas; check
www.get.tv