TV classics: The Adventures of Kit Carson
USA 1951-55, 4 seasons, 103 episodes, approximately 25 minutes each, Syndication, black & white. Produced by: Richard Irving, Originally sponsored by Coca-Cola. Cast: Bill Williams, Don Diamond
Plot summary: Kit Carson brings order and justice to the Wild West with a little help from his friend El Toro.
Review: Still new on the entertainment market in the early 1950s, TV brought Western storylines and characters directly into America’s living rooms as a successful substitute for its silver screen rivals, leaving the movie industry observing the development with anticipatory anxiety.
The Adventures of Kit Carson was one of the first TV Western shows on television, and one of the most successful ones at the time. Addressed to a young audience, the show did not only direct its sponsor’s commercial messages to a minor target group, it also created a picture book hero for children to look up to: a fictionalized Kit Carson who sought right from wrong in the Wild West, always with the assistance of his Mexican friend El Toro.
The title character was played by charismatic movie actor Bill Williams, whose sportive background added to his all-American attitude and boyish charm. Don Diamond was a great sidekick to Bill Williams’ impressive horseman qualities and disarming righteousness, both always supported by a beautiful cast of guest actors, a fantastic set and many outdoor scenes. Shooting often lasted all day as the team followed the sun to use as much light as possible to give the show the same appeal on the small screen as Westerns then had in movie theaters. And the hard work paid off. The show was very popular with children and lasted four seasons before it was successfully kept alive in reruns for many years.
Today, The Adventures of Kit Carson is a darling example for the early days of television when the business was still learning to walk and borrowed much of its esthetics from commercial Hollywood. It’s a real treat to re-watch on a rainy Sunday afternoon, with your (grand-)children or alone. The show has an air of nostalgia about it and leaves you feeling like a kid in your parents’ backyard playing cowboy and Indians, waiting for your mother to call you in for a glass of homemade lemonade and apple pie. And like you in your heart, the show never gets old.
Selected episodes available on DVD. Sample episode of The Adventures of Kit Carson