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Westerns
Nichols

Title Card - JAMES GARNER AS NICHOLS

NBC Network
1971 - 1972
Drama
60 Minutes

Set in the 1914 town of Nichols, Arizona, James Garner starred as Nichols, a drifter who returned to his hometown, founded by his parents, only to be blackmailed into being sheriff by Sara "Ma" Ketcham (Neva Patterson), the town's most influential figurehead whose clan had taken over the place.

When Nichols first arrived in town, he stopped off at the Salter Saloon for a drink, flirted with Ruth the barmaid, got into a fight with Ketcham who considered Ruth his gal and caused about $300 damages.

Since Nichols didn't have the money to pay for the damages to the bar, Ma Ketcham, the law in town, sentenced him to a six month tour as town sheriff.

While Nichols reluctantly accepted his fate, he used his spare time to come up with get rich schemes and looked forward to the day he served his sentence and was free of Ma Ketcham's web of treachery. To earn some spending cash, Nichols also took a temporary job as the town's saloon keeper.

Prior to arriving in town, Nichols served in the US Cavalry 19th Unit for 18 years. Despite his military background, he wasn't much for using a gun but he was good with his fists being the division boxing champion while in the army. But, if Nichols had the choice, he'd rather smooth talk his way out of a problem than resort to violence. He'd seen enough of that in the military.

When it came to transportation, Nichols preferred one of them newfangled  motorcycles to a horse. Ma Ketcham's son Ketch drove an automobile [license: AB1Z].

Other citizens of Nichols, Arizona included:

  • Stuart Margolin as "Mitch" Mitchell, the town bully who worked as Nichols' deputy. Mitch has a dog named Slump and dutifully reported to Ma Ketcham.
  • John Beck as Ketcham "Ketch", Ma's son.
  • Margot Kidder as Ruth, a barmaid and Nichols' lady friend. For protection, she carried a derringer, a hatpin and at night she kept a Colt .45 pistol beneath her pillow.
  • Alice Ghostley as Bertha, the saloon operator.
  • John Harding as Salter, the owner of the Salter House Bar and Hotel where Nichols lodged in Room 3.
  • Richard Bull as Judge Thatcher.
  • Paul Hampton as Johnson.
  • Emmet Walsh as Gabe McCutcheon.
  • Joe Brown, Jr. as the Preacher.

James Garner as NICHOLS

During his stint as sheriff, Nichols:

  • Hired a band of less that professional mercenaries to attack an outlaw stronghold.
  • Negotiated with a Mexican bandit who brought his troops to town to ensure he got proper dental care for his bad teeth.
  • Commandeered a daredevil biplane pilot named Orv into searching for killers from the air. Nichols joined forces with the same pilot to rescue an Army Captain's kidnapped daughter being held hostage in Mexico.
  • Organized a baseball team to compete against an Army team.
  • Fended off trigger happy looters after an earthquake
  • Investigated conmen selling phony gold mines to the locals.
  • Jailed an escape artist who proved difficult to keep behind bars.
  • Intervened in a final showdown between two aging gunfighters who have been feuding for 20 years.
  • Tried to collect the reward for Jesse James when he discovered the outlaw was alive and hold up in town.
  • Challenged a professional fighter in the boxing ring.

A short time after Nichols accepted the position of sheriff, he was killed while breaking up a bar-room brawl. Several days later, Nichols' twin brother, Jim, a more dynamic, meaner, mustachioed fellow came to town to avenge his brother's death. Jim found his brother's killer, refused an offer to be sheriff, and left town.


TRIVIA NOTE: The series was titled JAMES GARNER AS NICHOLS a few weeks after the short-lived series aired in hopes that the lead actor's name would attract more viewers.


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