There was a new Cowboy in Dallas, and he wasn’t throwing touchdown passes. But Walker was almost gone before he could really get started. After just four episodes, the show’s production company suffered financial collapse and the show was rescued at the last minute by CBS Productions, who would continue to run the show for its nearly decade-long run. For nine years Norris brought us the ultimate Texas Ranger in a formula cops and robbers show. The show often became a parody of itself, but maintained a solid viewer ship throughout. Hell, Norris even sings the theme song. Truthfully, what started as a one man show (it was originally called Chuck Norris Is Walker, Texas Ranger) had become a good working ensemble that probably kept the train going for so long. Walker (Norris) is a tough guy Texas Ranger. He is partnered with Sydney Cooke (Peebles) and Jimmy Trivetti (Gilyard) who’s an ex-jock with a brain. Walker had a love interest and eventual wife in the local assistant district attorney Alex Cahill (later Walker) Together they fight the evils that come to the high plains of Texas armed with their fists, six-shooters, and Stetsons. After starting with the final season, CBS is finally halfway through the series back from the beginning.
There is a discrepancy in the season numbers that I should explain here. Most episode guides will refer to this collection of episodes as the fifth season. The first season of Walker was really only 3 episodes long, running in April and May of 1993. CBS included those episodes along with the complete “second” season run in a release they called The Complete First Season. While I applaud their inclusion in that set, the release more appropriately should have been entitled The Complete First and Second Seasons. What that did in reality is put their release numbers one behind, so that the second season DVDs are in reality season three, and so on. There are 27 episodes in this collection, so it is quite a value no matter what number it might be. You just need to be aware if you are consulting an episode guide and looking for a specific episode.
Fans of Norris were never disappointed in what they got here. The requisite martial arts and tough guy talk are present pretty much in every episode. This season provided no real surprises, but plenty of what had worked for three years and would continue to work for more than twice as long. The most interesting entry in this set is the fantastic Christmas episode, A Ranger’s Christmas. Walker tells a group of orphans the story of one Haze Walker who in 1876 was a Texas Ranger and also an orphan himself. The Old West tale includes all of the regular cast in alternative roles, very much in the style McGyver did in that show’s western fantasy episodes. The episode also features The Brothers Daryl’s number one brother Larry, William Sanderson, as the outlaw Will Stanton. The episode is a lot of fun and a refreshing departure from the normal procedural formula of the series. It might well be my favorite Walker episode. Walker survives a plane crash in Mayday, while protecting a Federal Witness. The show continues to deliver high moral lessons, delving into such topics as street gang pressure, drugs, corruption, and sportsmanship.
As with most 1990’s television series, Walker is presented in a standard 1.33:1 full screen format. The standard four episodes per disc leave little room for excellence in video quality. You’ll see plenty of compression artifact, particularly on blacker scenes. Colors are pretty much right on, if not brilliant. The Texas vistas at times remind me of many a cowboy film. You can count on the show looking at least as good as it did when it was broadcast.
Not much to be found in this minimalist Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track. The dialog is clear, and so are the gunshots. What else do you need from a Chuck Norris show? Everything is clean, just not extremely dynamic. Pans are used well at times, but mostly the mains are identical.
Walker was a staple on television for almost ten years without ever really changing that much. Norris isn’t the most compelling actor around, and he delivered his lines most of the time like he was reading them. Still, he developed a charismatic charm that enabled him and the series to endure. The show never wants for action, and at 27 episodes this release “ought to keep you on the edge of your seats”.