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NICHOLS

          

For Hicksflicks.com, Sept. 27, 2013

For James Garner fans, the release of "Nichols: The Complete Series" is a genuine treat. This is one of those shows that's been unavailable since it initially aired, a sadly misunderstood Western that ran on television for a single season (1971-72), a comedy-drama that had Garner playing a character quite different from "Maverick," which was apparently something fans didn't want at the time.

Watching it now, however, although it's easy to understand why it was initially rejected — it's darker and moodier and the humor is very different from "Maverick" — the show plays as something that was perhaps a bit ahead of its time. Nichols is a self-centered anti-hero, and that was not the kind of character that had yet gained traction in the television landscape yet, even though it was making inroads in movies.

Garner is the title character, apparently without a first name, and the pilot begins with him wandering into an Arizona town that carries his name, circa 1914, and he's immediately coerced into becoming sheriff, though he's as unorthodox a lawman as can be.

His unwanted sidekick is played by Stuart Margolin, whom Garner would sign on to play the recurring character Angel in "The Rockford Files" three years later, and Margot Kidder also co-stars, six years before "Superman."

Available as a Warner Archive manufacture-on-demand title (www.warnerarchive.com), "Nichols" is well worth tracking down if you're a Garner fan, and if not, hey, it's still an enjoyable, offbeat early 20th century Western for those who enjoy the genre.