New Spotlight: The Texas Wheelers

My obsession with Fall 1974 continues with this month’s Spotlight, which focuses on ABC’s sitcom The Texas Wheelers, which premiered in September 1974 and was off the air four weeks later, the victim of low ratings. Critics, though, were generally positive in their reviews of the series (with some exceptions, as always). Competition from The CBS Friday Night Movie and The Rockford Files didn’t leave a lot of free eyeballs for The Texas Wheelers, which ranked as one of the lowest-rated shows the week it premiered.

Produced by MTM Enterprises, the series starred Jack Elam as Zack Wheeler, the drunk, lazy father of four who abandoned his children after their mother died only to return months later unannounced and — at least in the case of his two oldest sons — unwanted. Zack spent most of his time trying not to do anything resembling work. Gary Busey, Mark Hamill, Karen Oberdiear, and Tony Becker co-starred as the Wheeler children.

ABC only broadcast four episodes before pulling the plug. Another four aired during the summer of 1975. A ninth episode was originally scheduled to air that summer but never was. I came across a couple of references to a total of 13 episodes being produced. UCLA’s Film & Television Archive has all eight aired episodes and one unaired episodes while the Paley Center for Media has two that aired and two that didn’t.

At least some of the unaired episodes are circulating among private collectors, suggesting they were syndicated at some point either in the United States or internationally.

Read the full Spotlight here.

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