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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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  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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33 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!

      1. JAY LEWIS

        I was born in 1963 and may have watched The Rifleman a few times growing up but really watched its since the pandemic. U mentioned today’s show give bad impressions of violence but The Rifleman and other shows alike portray someone minding their own business when someone jealous, evil minded causes havoc on an unsuspecting person. SMH. Without a preponderance of evidence, folks were hung for stealing a horse. I know its only a show but how much of it is the truth. People didn’t respect the law and formed posses took the law into their own hands.

    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…

      1. BC

        MeTV has the rifleman plus many others

    3. Geneva Riley

      That’s all my husband and I watch! We love western movies. So when it comes to watching a movie it’s all about the cowboys!
      We don’t have to worry about bad language and indecent dressing with our grandkids around. There stories are real. So keep the western’s on TV! Everyone we know love them!

    4. Ron rich

      I agree with you one hundred percent

  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.

    1. Aloce

      I I agree and I was so much in love with the kid that because he was only a year younger than me

  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.

    1. Zama

      I, too, feel ambushed by the lack of old-fashioned integrity in today’s movie choices. I’ve watched many of the Serial stories and found some excellent ones,,, “Attorney Extraodinaire”, “Madam Secretary” – but overall, today’s creations cheapen the movie experience. Bring back movies like the Rifleman that have an element of respect for personal sensitivities.

  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 ..

    1. Howard watts

      I agree i watched broken arrow too

  10. Medina

    I love the rifle man I look at it everyday

  11. Oscar Sanchez

    I love the Rifleman because it shows much pasión and brave at the same time and the actors were the best of all western movies I saw the series maybe around 1968 in Guatemala City and now I just enjoyed the re-runs . I tried to attend Johnny passing on 2021 I got lost in the process he got a beautiful voice RIP

  12. Bill

    Even today, 60+ yrs after it began, I still enjoy watching The Rifleman on Pluto TV..I have watched each episode multiple times, and still watch it when I can. Chuck was a great character actor in the series, and along with Johnny, have adoring fans to this day. Father/son love, family themes and values, and compassion and understanding is what I most admire about what how the writers scripted the show. Thanks to all that took part in this iconic show. They are gone and missed, but their contributions brought so many good feelings to us fans.

  13. Sherry Hunter-Yzerman

    I watched The Rifleman as a child and sixty years later still watch it regularly on Metv. I never tire of it though I know every episode. It was well acted by all the main characters. Loved the portrayal of the father-son relationship and having a moral to every story. I was sorry it ended… leaving us to ponder the future of the characters. Will Lucas marry Lou and have children… will Mark become a rancher as his father…I believe Lucas will be the only rifleman…and the good friendship of Micah endured

  14. Calvin Jones

    I’m Calvin Jones I live in Tenn. I was born and raised in Houston Texas. My father worked for the Shamrock Hilton Hotel , He was a bellman and he roomed Chuck Connors and the rifleman gave my dad a signed stick horse to give to me. I was so proud and thankful.I’m sixty-seven years old now and I just watched the Rifleman episode on me-tv and I will never get tired of watching . Thank -you

  15. Zev Piano

    Back in the 1950’s and early 1960’s, a three year run was considered a long run. Every season had 35 to 39 episodes, so after five seasons, as with “The Rifleman,” it had a lot of episodes. Five seasons today would be like two seasons back then.

  16. Cathy

    The only time me and my dad got along was watching tv and at that time it was cartoons and westerns. So when I got older I always remembered watching tv with dad. The one that stuck in my mind was when Lucas was in a sleeping bag and there was a rattlesnake in it. Where we live there is MeTV and it shows all the old shows from that era. Memories…….dad loved it when a show would come on that he had already seen because he would tell you what happened before it even happened and he would get so much pleasure out of that and just laugh so much. I miss that 😢😅

  17. paul agius

    Been watching rifleman for many years. Think i’ve see each episode at least 10 times each. Have my favourites. Put me on Jeopardy. Will know many of the stores. Sometimes rush home at 3pm to see if its one that i liked..End up watching any of them. ..Hate to say a tear come to my eye or eyes..SOMETIMES. Penbrook..LOVE. LOVED THIS SHOW… KEEP IT ROLLING…

  18. Dan Johnson

    The Rifleman was a wonderful show and will endure. I loved the relationship between Father and Son which is what we need today in real life. This was a great show with great characters. We need emotion between characters, it’s what we all crave and may be missing. This is the glue that binds people together, it fills the gap of loneliness and emptiness! This is one of the reasons the Rifleman has been so popular, it’s not just about a legend of a man with a rifle, but about a loving relationship between a Father and a Son and how that Father will do anything to protect and foster values for his son and others.

  19. Terry

    I am 71 and have been a fan since I was a kid. Raised in N.Y but a cowgirl at heart. Not sure why but this show always leaves me feeling good and relaxed. Love it !

  20. Maria

    I loved the show so much I still watch all the reruns and if they stop the reruns I would just buy the dvd. I loved Chuck Connors and Johnny Crawford. It was well written and acted. I love all the old westerns and some of the old War tv shows like Combat. I am a huge fan of Have Gun will Travel, The High Chaparral was also well written always a well thought out script that was entertaining and meaningful. Maverick was funny. Lawman was great. Of course Rawhide my favorite in Rawhide Eric Fleming definitely not Eastwood. Wagon Train which was good in the beginning not so much after the first 4 years. Wanted Dead or Alive was o.k it wasn’t my favorite. Also, Restless Gun. It is a shame because they don’t make great westerns or Good comedies any longer just very trashy non entertaining movies and television. Everything I watch in comedies are at least 15 years old or very, very old from the 50’s. Mostly everything on TV that is good is very old. Our society is at an all time low that I don’t see us ever coming back from it will never be the same or 1/2 as good as it was we have become a broken woke society.

  21. Rick Bestle

    The Rifleman was the best western ever made. I have been watching reruns for the last 50 years, that’s a lot of reruns, never get tired of them. Also I have noticed that when they say that John Anderson has made the most guest appearances with 11 episodes, I think they forgot about John Milford, he had the same amount 11 guest appearances. So they actually tied for the most.

  22. Je'Nai

    As a product of Hollywood! I can vouch for Johnny Crawford! He was a very sweet boy. We both were in Hollywood high school choir! One day the old crabby teacher ms Hutchinson screamed at Johnny “You can’t sing get out of my class, picked up a book and flung it .The book hit him in the back of his head as he ran outta the class! He never came back! He is a year older than me, but I always knew he could sing. He proved old crabby wrong! He ended up with his own band later in life! Johnny you were and are special in my eyes! Still a sweetie pie! You did good! Your ol choir mate Je’Nai

  23. Rolando

    I sent it today July 26, 2023 it still the best it was then and now. A-OK

  24. Tim Heffernan

    I am 80 Watched show had a tv in 1946. Molly is still alive married to Edd Byrnes Kookie!!! Mark drives me nuts Always sorry never C orrected by Pa. Deputy Ben still alive Phili Carey and Chuch Connors both WWiZi wounded veterans

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