TV classics: aka The Legend of Custer
USA 1967, one season, 17 episodes, approximately 50 minutes each, ABC, color. Cast: Wayne Maunder, Slim Pickens, Michael Dante, Robert F. Simon, Peter Palmer.
Plot summary: After the Civil War, Lieutenant Colonel Custer takes command of the 7th Cavalry, a group of misfits, criminals and ex-Confederates at Fort Riley, Kansas.
Review: In the late 1960s, one of America’s most popular genres slowly began saying farewell to television in its traditional form. Often considered too rough, Westerns were replaced by modernized versions that used the Old West as a mere setting for whodunits or family-friendly stories. Starring Wayne Maunder in the title role, Custer was one of the last original Westerns, a show suggested by Larry Cohen and produced by 20th Century Fox. Although blessed with popular guest stars of the time such as Agnes Moorehead, William Windom or Barbara Hale, the show failed to become a success. Based on George Armstrong Custer’s life, the program was violent and often historically incorrect. Protested by Native Americans and opposed by The Virginian and Lost in Space on NBC and CBS, the show never really stood a chance. Canceled the same year it was launched, Custer became TV history after only seventeen hour-long episodes. Still remembered and cherished by die-hard Western fans today, the show can be revisited on DVD or on Youtube. For anyone who enjoys the style of the 1960s, Custer may be a real gem that deserves re-evaluation. The same goes for anyone who’s fond of TV classics in general, including those the majority of us has long forgotten – unfortunately or not. It’s your decision.
Watch Custer: Death Hunt here, guest starring Barbara Hale and Patricia Harty.