Serling’s “The Loner”
Ever wonder what a Western penned by Rod Serling would have been like? No need to — there actually was one.
If that’s news to you, don’t be surprised. The Loner, which starred Lloyd Bridges, ran for only one season on CBS. Today, not unlike the cowboy himself, it seems all but forgotten.
Which is really a shame. The Loner had no supernatural elements and was about as far removed from the fifth dimension as you can imagine. But it had one thing in common with The Twilight Zone: Serling’s incisive writing and pointed social critiques.
Still, it wasn’t your run-of-the-mill Western. And that may have spelled its doom. CBS reportedly wanted more conventional genre elements — gun battles, running stage coaches, etc. And Serling being Serling, he resisted. To be sure, there’s gunplay and other familiar Western staples, but he insisted on giving “The Loner” a distinctive voice.
That meant characters wrestling with real problems, and shows that touched on racism and other controversial themes. It meant painting less with less black and white, and more with grays — and airing shows that didn’t always deliver the standard “happy ending.”
You can order the entire series (all 26 episodes) on DVD for only about $15 at Amazon.com: https://www.amazon.com/Loner-The-Complete-Series/dp/B01IHSM0HW. Here’s one of Serling’s episodes (a rare one that’s on YouTube):
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