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Series / Wanted: Dead or Alive

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Wanted: Dead or Alive is an American Western television series starring Steve McQueen as the bounty hunter Josh Randall. It aired on CBS for three seasons from 1958-1961. The black-and-white program was a spin-off of a March 1958 episode of Trackdown, a 1957-1959 western series featuring Robert Culp as a Texas Ranger named Hoby Gilman.

McQueen's character of Josh Randall is a Confederate veteran and bounty hunter with a soft heart. He often donates his earnings to the needy and helps his prisoners if they have been wrongly accused. Randall carries a shortened Winchester Model 1892 carbine, called the "Mare's Leg", in a holster patterned after "gunslinger" rigs then popular in movies and television.

The 1987 film of the same title is a Setting Update of sorts starring Rutger Hauer as Randall's great-grandson, who is also a bounty hunter.


The series contains examples of:

  • Always Gets His Man
  • Anachronism Stew: The use of the 1892 carbine when the series is set in the 1870s.
  • Artistic License Ballistics: The Mare's Leg is a cut down Winchester model 1892 carbine in 44-40 caliber, but the bullets in his cartridge belt are 45-70 caliber rounds used in the larger, more powerful rifles of the day. The producers wanted to use the 45-70s because they were more visually impressive than the relatively small, pistol sized rounds actually used in the 1892 carbine.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: The "Mare's Leg" is too short to be fired like a rifle and if fired like a handgun requires an awkward and uncomfortable angle on the wrist. Although visually striking, from a practical standpoint it is almost useless for self-defense.
  • Bounty Hunter
  • Dating Catwoman: In "Journey for Josh," Randall is transporting a female bank robber while keeping an eye out for her male partner. They eventually fall in love. The episode manages to work in Fourth Date Marriage (as it seems Randall decides to spend the rest of his life with her) and Cartwright Curse, as her partner kills her and is then killed by Josh. And they only had half an hour to squeeze all that in!
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  • The Drifter
  • Evil Twin: "Hero in the Dust" features a twin who seems to have no redeeming qualities — who seems to be bad to the bone, and frames his brother for his crimes; the focus is on the "good" brother, who troubles over their relationship and turns to Josh to see that it ends with both of them alive.
    Pete Weaver: Now, there is a difference between you and me... but the only ones who can tell that difference is you — and me.
  • Hand Cannon: The "Mare's Leg" in .44-40, despite the .45-70 cartridges on Randall's belt.
  • Hanging Judge: In "Miracle at Pot Hole", Randall brings a suspected murderer to Pot Hole, but fears the man won't receive a fair trial when he finds the townspeople in the grip of a power-mad bully who serves as the hanging judge over a Kangaroo Court.
  • Lysistrata Gambit: In "To the Victor", Josh Randall's problem is a town where the women (led by Liz, the daughter of Sheriff Strata - get it?) withhold themselves from the men in a protest against guns. After an attack on the town which they can't protect themselves against, the women give in unaware that Josh had arranged for the attack.
  • Sawed-Off Shotgun: Sawn-off repeating rifle actually.
  • Unorthodox Reload: Josh would frequently flip-cock his "Mare's Leg".


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