Synopsis by Nathan Southern
In between Maverick and The Rockford Files, James Garner headlined this often-forgotten prime-time series on NBC, a period western set in 1914. The drama unfolded in the apocryphal town of Nichols, AZ, where Nichols (Garner), the heir of the family that originally founded the town, returned to the community to discover in horror that it had been taken over by another family, the Ketcham clan. The matriarch of that group, Ma Ketcham (Neva Patterson), took full advantage of the fellow's return by blackmailing him into serving as a kind of puppet sheriff -- devoid of any power but at constant risk from all kinds of threats; the position enabled Ma to keep an eye on Nichols. Nichols, it seems, was a military veteran, but he detested violence -- to such a degree that he refused to tote a gun! His only desire was to accumulate as much wealth as he could as rapidly as possible via a series of wild, get-rich-quick schemes. One offbeat quirk of the series involved the character's insistence on using an automobile and motorcycle in lieu of a horse. Supporting characters included Mitch (Stuart Margolin), the town bully-cum-deputy and Ma's son; Nichols' barmaid girlfriend, Ruth (Margot Kidder); and Bertha (Alice Ghostley), the local saloon proprietor. Nichols debuted in mid-September 1971 and ran into the following summer, but ratings began to plummet; in response, producers attempted to rescue the program by having the lead shot down and killed and introducing a more aggressive, assertive twin brother, Jim Nichols (also Garner) take over for him. It didn't work, and Nichols ran for the last time on August 1, 1972.