Steve McQueen is coming to Encore Westerns five nights a week with Wanted: Dead or Alive, the series that made him a household name as Josh Randall, a bounty hunter tracking down criminals with his sawed-off Winchester rifle in the Old West.
‘WDOA’ was a spin-off of Trackdown (1957-59), where the character Randall was introduced as ‘The Bounty Hunter’ who assisted Texas Ranger Hoby Gilman (Robert Culp). Though Gilman and Randall work on the same side of the fence, there’s a difference between them, though: Gilman brings in the bad guys because he’s the law, while Randall brings them in for the money.
Wanted: Dead or Alive premiered on CBS in 1958, a year after Have Gun – Will Travel with Richard Boone as the black knight-errant gunfighter Paladin. Like Paladin, bounty hunter Josh Randall is disliked for many for his profession, so he has to prove to the townspeople that he does favor the law when it comes to justice. Randall is a gentleman (with a few rough edges) who donates the reward to the needy, willing to help those who are wanted prove their innocence and bring in the real culprit, do some good every now and then, and is available for hire for any job by anyone who can paid him. Nevertheless, in a harsh world of gray, Josh Randall is the bounty hunter with the ‘heart of gold’.
Wanted: Dead or Alive lasted three years and 94 episodes until its cancellation in 1961, but McQueen went on to become ‘the King of Cool’ thanks to films like The Magnificent Seven with James Coburn, who made guest appearances on ‘WDOA’; The Great Escape with ‘Seven’ co-star Charles Bronson, The Thomas Crown Affair with Faye Dunaway, and Bullitt with Jacqueline Bissett and Robert Vaughn (who was also in The Magnificent Seven), as well as the greatest car chase scene in film history.
There was also a 1987 big-screen adaptation of ‘Wanted: Dead or Alive’ with Rutger Hauer as ex-CIA agent Nick Randall, the descendant of Josh Randall: a bounty hunter hired by his former employer to catch a terrorist (Gene Simmons).
Continuing today on Encore Westerns is an all-day marathon of Wanted: Dead or Alive, which airs Mondays-Fridays at 7pm with back-to-back episodes, plus every Saturday at 9:30am, so check your local listings.