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

Read to Me

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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sputnik_57 10 days 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 13 days 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 13 days ago
On the bright side it wasn't a member of the Jehovah Witnesses.
Hilary 13 days 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.
PortelaJ 14 days 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 13 days 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 14 days 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 14 days 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 14 days ago
Only because censors and sponsors kept out the good stuff.
ScoobyDoo169 15 days 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 15 days ago
This is so cool. To be honest it is the only western I like.
stgcret 15 days ago
I'm 70 and still watch Lucas most afternoons. Most of the modern day stuff on tv is crap!
Boomer stgcret 15 days 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 15 days 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 14 days ago
Popularity (ratings) and quality are two different things. Amazed that people still can't understand that.
mc1963 16 days ago
In these day and times? Just wish we could go back to those days that are sadly long gone.😔
retired2019 16 days 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 14 days ago
I don't think I would have fainted, but everyone in the neighborhood would have known he was at my house.
ncadams27 16 days 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 14 days 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.
AgingDisgracefully 16 days ago
Happy Clint Eastwood didn't promote Harry Callahan like this.
Or even Rowdy Yates.
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