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Series / Hec Ramsey

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Hec Ramsey was a Western series that aired as part of The NBC Mystery Movie (it was the only element not set in the present day) from 1972–74. Mark VII Limited (Jack Webb's company) produced the show.

Richard Boone starred as Hector "Hec" Ramsey, a former Wild West gunfighter turned lawman who's keeping up with the times as the heyday of the cowboy is coming to an end and the 20th century is just beginning. He has developed a strong interest in the then-emerging field of forensics, and though he still carries a gun, his most important "weapons" were now fingerprinting kits, magnifying lenses, scales, and other equipment (often hand-made, by himself) which allow him to determine the real perpetrators of crimes with greater accuracy than has previously been possible.

Ramsey, having recently become expert with his new equipment, accepts the position of deputy police chief in the fictional town of New Prospect, Oklahoma. Arriving in town, he learns that the chief of police, Oliver B. Stamp (Rick Lenz), is a very young, very inexperienced lawman who needs lots of help. Fortunately, Stamp knows this, and after some initial friction, the two men develop a strong working relationship. They are often helped by Doc Amos Coogan (Harry Morgan), the town's physician and barber.

This series provides examples of:

  • Bandage Wince: In "The Century Turns", pharmacist Nora bandages Hec up after he's been shot. When Hec winces as she cleans the wound, Nora gives a look of disgust and then mutters that the police go out risking their lives but the idea of carrying some bandages and hydrogen peroxide is alien to them. Hec thinks this is a good idea, and asks her to assemble some kits for the constables to carry.
  • Beardness Protection Program: In "The Century Turns", one of the constables in New Prospect's first police force is a criminal who has grown a bushy moustache to disguise his identity. Hec is able to recognise him with the aid of the mini rogues gallery he keeps in his crime kit.
  • By-the-Book Cop: Chief Stamp is determined to drag law enforcement into the 20th Century, and wants things done by the book; even if that means writing the book himself.
  • Chatty Hairdresser: Doc Coogan doubles as the town's barber. While he is as talkative as the average barber, he is much better as a doctor.
  • End of an Age: The series is set as The Wild West starts transitioning from a rough frontier into settled towns and cities. This is personified by Hec, a legendary gunslinger who eagerly studies the latest developments in crime science so he can continue working as a lawman.
  • Frontier Doctor: Doc Coogan is the town doctor for New Prospect. Because, as he puts it, "folks are so damn healthy", he also works as a barber. He is a good doctor, but a terrible barber. Hec eventually ropes him as The Coroner.
  • Good Cop/Bad Cop: In "The Century Turns", Stamp and Mendoza pull this on an outlaw they have in custody. Mendoza is threatening some serious Police Brutality when Stamp comes in and pulls him off. Once Stamp has Mendoza out of the cells, it becomes obvious they have planned this. Stamp returns to the cells and plays nice cop, offering the suspect a cigarette. He manages to get him talking and eventually reveal where his partners are holed up.
  • The Gunslinger: Hec has a fearsome reputation as a Type-D, Quick Draw, gunslinger, and it is this that gets him hired as deputy police chief of New Prospect. However, Hec has decided that the age of the gunslinger is past, and he is working on becoming a scientific detective. This doesn't mean that he can't throw down with the best of them when the need arises, though, and carries a customized revolver with a cut-down barrel and no trigger guard so he can be faster on the draw.
  • Hidden Depths: The city council hired Hec as the deputy chief of police because they thought they were hiring a hardbitten gunslinger who would shoot first and ask questions later. However, while Hec is still handy with a gun, he turns out to be an expert in the emerging field of forensics, and keen to put his new skills to the test.
  • Historical Detective Fiction: Set at the turn of the century, when the idea of forensic crime investigation was still very new.
  • Old Cop, Young Cop: In a variation on the usual formula, the young cop, Chief Oliver B. Stamp, is actually the superior of the old cop, Hec Ramsey, who is his deputy. Fortunately Stamp recognizes his own limitations and comes to rely heavily on Hec's experience.
  • Pocket Protector: In "The Century Turns", Hec blocks a bullet with the brassbound trunk that holds his portable crime lab.
  • Science Hero: Hec uses forensic science to carefully examine clues and track down his perpetrators.
  • Twilight of the Old West: The series is set in the 1901. The lawless days of The Wild West are fading, and modern society is taking its place on the frontier.
  • U.S. Marshal: Hec was a legendary Deputy US Marshal who used to ride for Hanging Judge Isaac Parker before resigning to accept the position of deputy police chief of New Prospect.
  • The Wild West: The very end of it at least.