1 9 7 3 (USA)
26 x 30 minute episodes
“Let’s follow the path of Dusty’s Trail . . . a stage and a wagon headin’ West, part of a wagon train lost from the rest”.
Dusty’s Trail was a Western sitcom starring Bob ‘Gilligan’ Denver. The series’ premise was not complicated: creator Sherwood Schwartz had previously presented the sitcom Gilligan’s Island – reviled at first but a cult in re-runs.
In that show, a group of people out on a pleasure cruise were shipwrecked on a tiny island. Dusty’s Trail repeated the same formula but was set in the wild west of the 1880s, with a wagon train heading from St Louis to California replacing the Minnow.
The main star, Bob Denver, was back again, and his character – the dunce-headed trail scout Dusty (with a horse called ‘Freckles’) – was a clone of his earlier Gilligan persona.
Virtually all the other roles were mirror-images of Gilligan characters too. The comedy was provided via the problems encountered when five members of a wagon train get separated from the main body and get lost in the Wild West – attempting to avoid bears, Indians, and outlaws along their way.
Among the pioneers were gorgeous dancehall girl Lulu McQueen (Jeannine Riley) who was travelling to California to open her own saloon; shy and demure schoolteacher Betsy McGuire (Lori Saunders); resourceful and inventive Andy Boone (Bill Cort); and wealthy Boston couple Carter (Ivor Francis) and Daphne (Lynn Wood) Brookhaven – echoing the Howell’s on Gilligan’s Island – who were journeying West to cash in on the recent gold rush and open a bank.
The series also starred Forrest Tucker (who had already made a successful name for himself in another comedic Western, F Troop) as Mr Callahan the Wagonmaster – ostensibly the Skipper from Gilligan’s Island – an ex-army officer with a horse called ‘Barney’
Voting with their ‘off’ buttons, US audiences quickly dismissed the series from their screens.