What's more, Season 3 has come out just in time for Christmas!
John Russell and Peter Brown again star as Marshal Dan Troop and his deputy, Johnny McKay. Like the first season, Season 2 runs 39 episodes.
As much as I enjoyed Season 1, which was reviewed here in August, I feel the show really comes into its own beginning in Season 2, with the addition of Peggie Castle as feisty saloon owner Lily Merrill.
Over the course of the series Dan and Lily develop a subtle, adult relationship which is most enjoyable to watch.
I love this show's compact storytelling, with the episodes running roughly 24-25 minutes. The brisk run time makes a nice change of pace from the many longer-format TV Westerns which are closer to an hour -- or in the case of THE VIRGINIAN, even longer!
Within the confines of the short format there is still some nice character development and room for compelling stories. In one of my favorite Season 2 episodes, "The Breakup," young Johnny is shaken after having to kill two men in self-defense and decides to turn in his badge. This provides some moving scenes, given Dan's paternal feelings toward the orphaned Johnny and Johnny's fear of letting down the man he always refers to respectfully as "Mr. Troop." We also see hints of how Dan and Lily's relationship has evolved in her concern for Dan.
Lily's character is also gradually fleshed out, such as in "The Exchange," when her ex, Frank (Mike Road), turns up in town, up to no good. We learn that Lily has a little boy being raised by her sister, and that Frank plans to disappear with the child unless Lily is complicit in a bank robbery.
I can't say enough about John Russell in the title role. He's truly a man's man, tough, smart, and honorable. Russell was only in his late 30s but no one could have played the role with more authority. I suspect Russell's real-life military background may have helped inform his unflinching portrayal of Marshal Troop; he served in the Marines on Guadalcanal. I've read that Russell dyed the gray streak in his hair to give the character added maturity.
It's fun seeing the faces who turn up from episode to episode. For instance, it was a bit of a shock seeing a haggard-looking Tom Drake as an alcoholic in "The Hunch," but the one-time "Boy Next Door" did a fine job. He turned up later in the season in a completely different role.
Other guest stars include James Coburn, Lee Van Cleef, George Kennedy, Kenneth Tobey, Karen Steele, Jack Elam, DeForest Kelley, Paula Raymond, Joel Grey, Regis Toomey, Richard Arlen, Troy Donahue, Allan "Rocky" Lane, Catherine McLeod, Robert J. Wilke, and even Dodgers pitcher Don Drysdale!
It was fun to pick out James Garner's longtime stand-in, Luis Delgado, as the wordless man who drives the bodies to the undertaker in "The Breakup." Delgado can often be spotted as an extra in MAVERICK, but I hadn't noticed him in another Warner Bros. Western before. I wouldn't be surprised if he can be found in other shows filmed on the lot!
Another plus for the series, as I mentioned in my Season 1 review, is its evocative theme music. Orchestral versions of the LAWMAN theme make effective background music in some episodes, such as at the moving conclusion of "The Breakup."
Although the Warner Archive site doesn't indicate the initial copies sold there are pressed, my set did indeed consist of silver-backed pressed discs. The print quality is excellent.
LAWMAN is high up on my list of all-time favorite TV Westerns, along with MAVERICK and THE HIGH CHAPARRAL, and I strongly recommend this beautifully produced set for Western fans.
Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD collection. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop.