Chuck Connors went door-to-door around America to get feedback on The Rifleman

Can you imagine a TV star ringing your doorbell in St. Louis?

The Everett Collection / Getty Stock

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In the fall of 1961, The Rifleman was entering its fourth season, but the show's future was not so certain. The network had kicked the show around to different time slots over the prior year. ABC booted the Western from its cozy, successful Saturday night home after season two, moving The Rifleman to Tuesday evenings following The Bugs Bunny Show. The show's star, Chuck Connors, was not exactly a big fan of the cartoon rabbit afterward.

"We didn't have much of a lead-in," Connors told the Associated Press in 1961. "Bugs Bunny, which preceded us, was supposed to be a world-beater. It wasn't."

Thus, Lucas and Mark McCain were on the move once again for season four. Now, The Rifleman was following the likeminded Cheyenne on Mondays. All that schedule hopping can spell death for a series, so Connor undertook an action that seems unthinkable today. He personally traveled around the country to promote the show and get feedback from fans.

The Rifleman himself literally knocked on doors to talk to viewers.

The preseason P.R. tour took the actor eastward to St. Louis, Chicago, Detroit, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, D.C., and New York.

"I first went into the neighborhoods and rang doorbells," Connors explained to the AP. Can you imagine? The bell chimes and the folks at home assume it's the Fuller Brush man or some other wandering salesperson. The door swings open and… it's Lucas McCain! It's a wonder people didn't faint.

"Then I would go downtown and hand out questionnaires in crowds," Connors added. The Rifleman on the street, polling TV viewers! Talk about dedication to his show. Connors estimated that he talked to approximately 1,200 people. 

"I asked if they wanted any changes," Connors said. "Most of them said to leave it as it is."

He also surveyed fans on Lucas' love life. He asked if the Rifleman should marry. The answer?

"They said no," Connors succinctly noted.

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MsCissie1 3 months ago
O. M. G. I wish he'd have come to Philadelphia, PA and knocked on our door! How I would have loved to meet the man I've had a crush on my entire life, although in 1961 I was only 3 years old 😘☺️
sputnik_57 6 months ago
I enjoyed the Rifleman as a young boy in the mid-1960's. I always thought the show was rather sadistic...I mean, McCain was always getting beat up, tortured, and left for dead in the burning desert by some psychotic sociopath criminal. Of course, at the show's happy ending he doesn't have a scratch on him!
LaDolceVita 6 months ago
My favorite actor many years ago was Franco Gasparri. He was very handsome. I think i would faint if he came to my door.
EricFuller 6 months ago
On the bright side it wasn't a member of the Jehovah Witnesses.
Hilary 6 months ago
Exactly, once Johnny Crawford started to grow up it was as if they did not know what to do with him. Bonanza had sons and their father conquering the West perhaps it was time for Mark to still be his father’s pride and joy but to just begin to grow up along side of Paw/ I think the show’s charm would remain if written correctly.
RedSamRackham Hilary 3 months ago
* Bonanza failed to move beyond the grown men living with their daddy theme. Pernell Roberts left the series for that reason. After Dan Blocker's death when Little Joe married the show had potential with a new female cast member and a grandchild for Ben BUT when Joe's pregnant with was killed it was the last straw for fans and the ratings went into the dumper. ♣
PortelaJ 6 months ago
Incredible story. The Rifleman was/is a favorite western. Just wished they would’ve “matured” Mark a little more throughout the series. Less “Paw Paw”
and maybe learn to shoot the rifle once in a while. My 2 centavos. Have a safe weekend MeTV gang.
WandaBaker PortelaJ 6 months ago
I can still remember my mother complaining about Mark running and jumping up into Lucas's arms like a small child. She said he was too old for that.
dujon55 6 months ago
I wish Chuck Conners had knocked on my door. I loved the rifleman when I was a kid. Still do. Times sure have changed you would never see a tv star doing something like that today
Papamike55 6 months ago
Today's TV programs can't hold a candle to what airs on MeTV. God was worshipped. Family values were held up.
Wiseguy Papamike55 6 months ago
Only because censors and sponsors kept out the good stuff.
ScoobyDoo169 6 months ago
That's awesome, I wish things were still like that and people would jist be kind to others and welcome that sort of thing. People just need to relax. I do think that the Rifleman should've gotten married though to Lou Mallory. I love the Rifleman, it's the coolest Western ever.❤
mariaschatz67 6 months ago
This is so cool. To be honest it is the only western I like.
stgcret 6 months ago
I'm 70 and still watch Lucas most afternoons. Most of the modern day stuff on tv is crap!
Boomer stgcret 6 months ago
Dittoooohhhh at 56 years old. My tv is on on MeTv 6 days a week from 11am to 8pm, 9:30 on Sundays. Favourite channel along with Grit and Antenna Tv. All good ole’ fashion tv.
trogg888 6 months ago
i cant believe this show had ratings problems .this was probably one of the best of all the westerns during that era and i still watch it 60 years later
Wiseguy trogg888 6 months ago
Popularity (ratings) and quality are two different things. Amazed that people still can't understand that.
ncadams27 trogg888 3 months ago
There were no DVRs or streaming services then. A show had to be watched when it aired. A more popular show on another network will affect your ratings. Many good shows had bad time slots.
mc1963 6 months ago
In these day and times? Just wish we could go back to those days that are sadly long gone.😔
retired2019 6 months ago
If Chuck Connors would have showed up at my door, I would have fainted! Even in later years he was handsome.
Are you old enough to remember the game Mystery Date? My sister had this. When I first saw the photo, I thought of the commercial's jingle: "Open the door for your Mystery Date." I am curious to know what that gentleman looks like and who that gentleman is, that Lucas is "looking" at.
Papamike55 retired2019 6 months ago
I don't think I would have fainted, but everyone in the neighborhood would have known he was at my house.
MsCissie1 retired2019 3 months ago
Absolutely? He was is still my crush!👍🏾😘☺️
* The MYSTERY DATE commercial asked "Will he be a dream or a dud?" I thought there should've been a version for guys asking "Will she be a super-fox or a sweat-hog?" ☺
ncadams27 6 months ago
The Rifleman never aired on Saturday. The first two seasons were Tue at 9 following Wyatt Earp. Season 3 moved to Tue at 8 preceding Wyatt Earp and after Bugs Bunny. Season 4 moved to Monday at 8:30 following Cheyenne and preceding Surfside Six. The show finished no lower than the Top 30. I think most of the problem was that 30 min westerns were on their way out by 1962.
Wiseguy ncadams27 6 months ago
Thirty-minute dramas in general. 1962 was the year Twilight Zone changed to an hour (it changed back the following year) and Alfred Hitchcock changed to an hour for its final three years. Robert Taylor's Detectives changed to an hour for its final season the previous year.
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