TV classics: Big Valley
USA 1965-69, 4 seasons, 112 episodes, approximately 45-50 minutes each, ABC, color. Created by: A.I. Bezzerides and Louis F. Edelman. Cast: Barbara Stanwyck, Richard Long, Lee Majors, Linda Evans, Peter Breck
Plot summary: In the heart of California, widowed matriarch Victoria Barkley, her adult sons and stubborn daughter Audra live a wealthy and influential life in the Big Valley.
Review: The Big Valley is a Western show. If you don’t like the genre, you may possibly not enjoy this program. If you find yourself biased however, do try to give this series a chance. It has a stellar cast, led by Hollywood legend Barbara Stanwyck. In true Golden Hollywood star tradition, her portrayal of Victoria Barkley is eye candy and ranges from up-lifting to draining, depending on the plot of the episodes she was allowed to shine in. Lee Majors is another worthy reason to pick this show who earned his stripes starring on this program before he became TV’s Six Million Dollar Man and Fall Guy in the 1970s and 80s. These two screen favorites are successfully surrounded by Linda Evans’ early talents (before she butt heads with Joan Collins on Dynasty), Richard Long and Peter Breck.
The Big Valley is one of those gems whose cast sparks off each other on screen. It is a real joy to watch their characters hunt down evil-doers, catch cattle or fist fight to make a point. Victoria Barkley as the family matriarch is a real lady who dotes on her sons and always has a wise remark. Her only daughter Audra has her poise and a lot of temper, and to her mother’s disdain, a rather free spirit. The Barkley sons, including the late Thomas Barkley illegitimate son Heath (Lee Majors), are all alike in their dedication to the family ranch, while their characters couldn’t be any more different. Nick, the hothead, Jared, the politician and Heath, the handyman. Together they form an invincible team, in spite of their arguments and dissimilarities in approaching trouble. Another treat is definitely California and the scenery that was chosen for the show, always breathtaking and beautiful.
Unfortunately, after four short seasons and in spite of its popularity, the show was canceled in 1969 due to pressure from the network to replace it with modern programs. Westerns were regarded as an outdated genre, one of which is dearly missed these days and successful in reruns or on DVD.
Available on DVD.