Why Was The Rifleman Cancelled
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Why Was The Rifleman Cancelled? Check Out The Reasons 

Why was The Rifleman cancelled?

The Rifleman was one of the most distinguished Western series years back—a program that even people outside the United States enjoyed watching.

In the 1970s, the Soviet Union permitted the airing of a few programs produced in the United States, and interestingly, The Rifleman was one of them.

Unlike many other well-loved television shows, The Rifleman lasted for only five seasons and 168 episodes. Come to think of it. If you’ve seen and examined the series, you might have thought the producers would have wanted to produce more than five seasons. So the question is, why didn’t they?

If you’re wondering why Four Star Productions, makers of The Rifleman, discontinued the series, you’re in the right place. Keep reading!

Why Was The Rifleman Cancelled?

There were a lot of causes why The Rifleman ended in its 5th season. Let’s look at all three possible reasons.  

The unexpected drop in rating year after year: 

All production companies, including anyone who has made a significant investment in a series cares about a show’s ratings. The rating presents how much the target audience values the program, giving the production team an overview of how interested the public is in that movie or television series.

Shockingly, Four Star Productions, The Rifleman‘s producers, didn’t produce one season before calling time on the program, considering they delivered five solid seasons. In most people’s eyes, Four Star Productions’ ability to develop five seasons for The Rifleman before it ended was a success during its time in 1958.

Even in today’s evolved entertainment industry, The Rifleman would have been termed a success, given the number of seasons produced before the cancellation.

Unfortunately, the mentioned producers weren’t ready to settle for less. The company expected the ratings to improve as production went by, but this didn’t happen. The Rifleman‘s rating continued to plummet from one season to another—a development Four Star Productions wasn’t ready to accept.

The Rifleman’s dwindling rating showed that the targeted audience wasn’t too keen on the program, forcing the producers, Four Star Productions, to cancel the program. The company had a notion that if they continued the show, not only will they hit rock bottom when it comes to ratings, they may also lose a ton of money.

The Johnny Crawford effect:  

Born in Los Angeles, California, United States of America, Johnny Crawford was one of the fan-favorites in The Rifleman. His acting career started at the age of 12. His first-ever performance was as a Mouseketeer in front of a national audience. Unfortunately, that performance didn’t catapult Johnny to prominence. However, his role in the program, The Rifleman, shot him to fame. 

Johnny Crawford acted as Mark McCain, a Western rancher’s son. Excitingly, Johnny portrayed the role so well that his fan base started growing.

His acting skills were evident for all to see. He was one of the few characters that The Rifleman fans looked forward to seeing in the show. At age 13, Johnny got his first Emmy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
Johnny Crawford was indeed the perfect son and character for the Rifleman, played by Chuck Connor. However, in the final season of The Rifleman, the producers realized that Johnny was outgrowing his role. It wouldn’t make sense to replace Johnny with another character, knowing how much the young actor has grown in popularity and how much the fans loved him. Even when the series finally ended in 1963, Johnny continued to receive piles of mail from fans.

A saturated genre: 

If you’re familiar with The Rifleman, including how it all ended, you would feel sorry for the producers, Four Star Productions. From all indications, the company would have loved the idea of sustaining the program. Yet many things changed so fast, and this affected their plans. 

Another possible reason for The Rifleman‘s cancellation was the increased competition in the Western genre. During that time, the genre was fading away gradually, so it’s very likely that Four Star Productions didn’t want to be caught unaware. The company wanted to walk away from the genre because things get unpleasant, and the best way to take that step was by canceling The Rifleman

Should The Rifleman Have Been Cancelled and Ended in Season 5?

Fans are crucial to any show, whether it’s a movie or television series. They create the buzz around a program but can quickly turn their attention to something else. If a show doesn’t have the fans’ support, success seems unlikely. 

However, it’s normal for fans to display their views about a show. Fans sometimes protest the cancellation of a show, and the case with The Rifleman is no different. The storyline, plot, and how Lucas and Mark bonded intrigued entertainment lovers—proving that people loved the show.

Nonetheless, fans have no power to decide whether a program will continue or stop. The company or financers of the movie form the decision, and even though companies generate funds from the fans, it’s not enough for the supporters to dictate if a show should continue or not. 

The truth is no entertainment company would like to end a program halfway, especially when their reputation is at stake. The buzz they have managed to gain for the movie would be a complete waste too. 

So, should The Rifleman end? Yes, it should. Most people think that the movie ended abruptly, but that’s not the case. The Rifleman’s production lasted from 1958 to 1963, with five seasons produced.

Now, let’s be frank. Many shows don’t make it past a few episodes or even the first season before they get canceled by the financers for one reason or the other. But The Rifleman lasted for five years, which shows how exceptional the program was.

So, yes, The Rifleman should have ended the time it did. There was no better way for Four Star Productions to cancel the movie. They even acted in the final episode of season 5 because the program’s cancellation took place.

10 Interesting Facts About The Rifleman 

The Rifleman boasts several fun facts that would interest anyone. These include details from the scenes and about the series. So by the time you watch the movie, probably the entire season, these facts would hopefully help refresh your memory.

  1. The Rifleman’s original release was on the 30th day of September 1958.
  2. The entire program has 168 episodes and 5 seasons. The series’ final season has 26 episodes, with the final episode titled “Old Tony.” 
  3. The record for the highest guest appearances goes to John Anderson, recording eleven appearances in the movie.
  4. The popular jeans Lucas McCain wore were wrangler jeans. You can identify it by the letter “W” and rivets present on the jean’s back pocket.
  5. The Rifleman, Chuck Connors, known as Lucas McCain in the movie, initially refused the role. He declined because the salary was considerably low, so the producers considered using John Anderson, including James Whitmore. Still, Chuck portrayed the character, and the producers witnessed his unique chemistry with young Johnny Crawford. Seeing this convinced the producers to make another offer, which he accepted.  
  6. The rifle that Chuck Connors used in The Rifleman was the same rifle used in the 1939 movie, Stagecoach by John Wayne. It was a well-made 1892 .44-40 Winchester rifle. 
  7. Lucas McCain’s bond with Mark McCain in “The Rifleman” earned him the 32nd place on TV Guide’s elaborate list of the “50 Greatest TV Dads of all Time.”   
  8. From 1973, Soviet television only permitted a handful of America-based TV shows aired in their country, and The Rifleman was one of those. Leonid Brezhnev, the then Soviet Premier, was Connor’s friend and a fan of The Rifleman
  9. Chuck Connors, who portrayed Lucas McCain, appeared in the entire 168 episodes of The Rifleman. He was the only character in the movie that holds this record. 
  10.  Johnny Crawford wasn’t only the youngest character on The Rifleman. Until his demise in 2021, he was the only surviving member of the entire cast.

Conclusion to Why The Rifleman Was Cancelled

Why was The Rifleman cancelled?

We hope you now understand the possible reasons why Four Star Productions, makers of The Rifleman, cancelled the program. Indeed, a lot has caused the company to toll that path.

One of the possible reasons was the dwindling rating of the show, with no signs of improvement later on. Johnny Crawford’s age was also another reason. He outgrew his character, and getting a replacement was out of the picture. 

In a nutshell, Four Star Productions didn’t make a mistake for pulling the plug on The Rifleman. At the very least, the company ended things while the ovation was loudest.

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11 thoughts on “Why Was The Rifleman Cancelled? Check Out The Reasons 

  1. Janet Baird

    If it takes place before the earliest known automobile, if it has a wonderfully brave, great looking man in the saddle, was it I who mentioned Randolph Scott, if it has a mane and a tail, if it is too well trained, hahaha, to leave horse, we’ll yoouuu know in a shot, or was on TV in the 50s or 60s I know all the dialogue. I gave up waiting for Jess to say CATARANKEROUS just one more time on Laramie, so I bought all 4 years. What Jess in his beautiful voice was trying to say was Cantankerous. But I like the first try better.

  2. June E Roberts

    I’ve watched the riffle man since late 50’s
    I still watch the Riffle man today. And many of my friends or people I meet watch it still. Love those cowboy’s they were the best made programs ❤️ what they put on TV now is just criminal blood and drugs giving youngsters how to be bad people miss those family shows .just keep playing those reruns.cos that’s all we watch.thank you God Bless 👍

    1. Ginger Pinion

      I love watching The Rifle Man too!I’m trying to find if the show is on Sunday also! Absolutely a fantastic show! Also aI agree w/ the man leaving comments of the blood & etc.,In now day’s movies. Tired of the drugs, murders, & making shows about “our today living” we see on the news, constantly! Just love The Rifle Man Show!! Best Western to watch and enjoy!

    2. JR

      You’re right..shows today are just crap…i miss the days of Good Time The Rifleman and Andy Griffith which is what my wife and i mostly watch thanks to Pluto Tv…

  3. Carla

    Vintage TV is the only way to go
    The morals and respect the Rifleman and other Westerns are so different than so many of the shows that really have no moral lessons
    I visit the McCain ranch as much as possible
    To keep my happiness on track
    Thanks METV

  4. Larry

    I used to watch the show as a kid. When I watch it now, it brings me back to a simpler time when life was much less complicated. Some of it may be a bit corny but it’s refreshing to get a good dose of nostalgia from an old western.

  5. john kuschke

    there were more than 5 seasons of the rifleman and they had a new intro.must be some copyright thing.

  6. Dorothy Buchanan

    I disagree that the show should end. The show needed better writers. The show had it all for great future potential proven by the Writers Corner on the Rifleman website. Strong father figure with an appeal for men and women. From child to teenage, guitar playing singer, father is The Rifleman, potential to be the future rifleman in training. Yes the producers of this show blew it! This show withstands the test of time.

  7. Miles

    I be watching the Rilfeman on the MeTV channel. it looked like a fun and cool black and white TV Show
    with Lucas and Mark with their guns.

  8. Robert

    I’m a huge fan of the Rifleman! I’ve seen every episode multiple times, and never tire of it. The show always had such great guest stars, many who became famous stars later in their career. Love the early years, when Mark is young, and the episodes focus on the Father Son bond. Thanks to MeTV, I enjoy the Rifleman almost every day!

  9. dave

    yes started watching the rifle man again a few years ago when i found out it was back on remember when it was on tv 50 yesrs ago with zorro and the rest of those great westerns chuck c. was a good actor.only 72 when he passed.I had a toy R. man rifle.and when i got old old enough i bought a real 44 40 winchester lookalike loop lever action rifle. man does that thing kick. mag load. target only of course.does any one know of what happend to broken arrow serial lost shows cant bfind any good copies. stared michael ansara as cochiese the indian chief was a good show at the time. anyway back in time was a better world for sure . peace be with you all ..

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