SERIES: The Men from Shiloh
New title “The Virginian: Men from Shiloh”
24 episodes NBC: Wednesdays at 7:30-9:00pm
Executive Producers Herbert Hirschman and Leslie Stevens
Produced by Glen A. Larson
New opening sequence with No ‘Ride-In’
and new theme music by Ennio Morricone
Stewart Granger – Col. Alan MacKenzie
Doug McClure – Trampas
Lee Majors – Roy Tate
John McLiam – Parker
James Drury – The Virginian
The Virginian, loosely based on the Owen Wister novel and set in the 1890’s, revolved around a foreman, played by James Drury, who went by the name The Virginian; his real name was never revealed in the nine years the show was on the air. The series took place in Medicine Bow, Wyoming, and revolved around The Virginian’s quest to maintain an orderly lifestyle for the ranch he worked on, which was called Shiloh Ranch. Other key characters included Trampas (played by Doug McClure) and Steve Hill (played by Gary Clarke). The main horse on the show was named Joe D.
The ranch had four owners throughout its run: Judge Garth (played by Lee J. Cobb), the Grainger brothers (played by Charles Bickford and John McIntire) and Colonel Alan McKenzie (played by Stewart Granger; the Graingers were replaced by a Granger who didn’t play a Grainger). The theme song was titled “Lonesome Tree” and was written by Percy Faith and conducted by Revue musical director, Stanley Wilson.
The Men From Shiloh, is actually the last and final season of The Virginian, a sort of sequel to the long-running hit TV western featuring James Drury and Doug McClure. The show is now set in the 1890’s, 10 years after the last/previous season of The Virginian, and it continues to tell the adventures of The Virginian, and his friend Trampas, in Medicine Bow, Wyoming. However the Shiloh range, a staple feature of the series, has now been brought by Englishman Colonel Alan Mackenzie [Stewart Granger] and added to the show’s cast is ranch hand Roy Tate, portrayed by a post-Big Valley Lee Majors. Roy Tate is introduced in episode 4.
History of The Men From Shiloh
written by Paul Green
NBC – 90 minutes
September 16, 1970 – September 8, 1971
As Virginian fans viewed the opening title sequence of ‘The Men From Shiloh’ they realized the old and much loved ‘ride-in’ had gone forever. Jack Cole’s visuals, consisting of a mixture of authentic western stills, cast photos and early seventies lower case typography served as a backdrop to Ennio Morricone’s stylish theme. Not since ‘The High Chaparral’ had there been a more memorable title sequence to a TV Western series. Expectations for the show were high. But viewers soon became frustrated with the revamped format.
The new owner of Shiloh Ranch was Colonel Alan MacKenzie, played by Stewart Granger. His manner was formal, becoming a former Indian military academy member. He even had his own batman (John McLiam as Parker). The Virginian had grown sideburns and Trampas a moustache. Roy Tate was a newcomer to Shiloh in the form of Lee Majors, en route from the Big Valley. The feminine touch was sorely lacking.
Universal was producing a show at the time called ‘The Name of the Game’ in which characters rotated between episodes but rarely interacted. The producers of ‘The Men From Shiloh’ unwisely adopted a similar formula. The interaction between The Virginian, Trampas, the owners of Shiloh Ranch and the ranch hands in the original Virginian series was missing for a great deal of the time in The Men From Shiloh.
Stewart Granger expressed dissatisfaction. “I created the role myself and the episodes took ten days at a time to shoot. But I have to say again, I did not enjoy doing the show. I hate doing TV. It’s all rush and dash and you work too many hours. It is done too quickly, so there is no quality in a show.”
Despite the gruelling schedule and the new format the series did boast some good episodes. The opening episode in which Mackenzie arrives in Medicine Bow for the first time was noteable for the frosty greeting he received from The Virginian and Trampas. Both indicated it might be time to move on after nine years at Shiloh. The idea of an Englishman running a ranch wasn’t to their liking. But by the episode’s conclusion MacKenzie showed he had what it takes and The Virginian and Trampas had a change of heart and decided to stay.
The episode ‘The Best Man’ saw Trampas travelling across the border to be best man at his friend’s wedding only to discover the bride knew nothing about the wedding plans. The episode guest starred Desi Arnaz and featured the song ‘Take A Look Around’ that re-appeared in a later Trampas episode and even made the transition to an episode of ‘Alias Smith and Jones’.
But the series in its entirety failed to capture the hearts of the viewers and it was cancelled after one season. Mistakes were made that seemed obvious even at the time of the original broadcast. The costume design was flawed. Trampas and Roy Tate both wore costumes no self respecting cowboy would be seen dead in. The Virginian fared better but even his new outfit lacked the distinction of the original series. Characterisation was uneven. Glen A Larson’s penchant for comedy was badly mis-timed when Trampas was made to appear as a fool in certain segments. In the original series Trampas had evolved from an irresponsible kid with a liking for trouble to a cowboy who would be willing to put his neck on the line for his friends.
Some commentators refer to ‘The Men From Shiloh’ as the final season of ‘The Virginian’. I prefer to view it as a sequel. Its failure has probably as much to do with the decline of the Western genre in the seventies as the quality of the series.