By now, most of you have heard of the “Trump Trackdown” video. For those of you who haven’t, a quick recap:
This past week, Snopes.com posted about the video, which was originally posted to YouTube back in November and consists of 4 minutes of various scenes from a 1958 episode Trackdown. In the episode, a con man named Walter Trump arrives in a Texas town and tells everyone that only he can save them from the end of the world, by building a protective wall around their homes (along with selling them parasols to shield them from a meteor shower).
Texas Ranger Hoby Gilman, played by none other than Robert Culp, suspects Trump is a fraud. At one point in the episode, Trump threatens to sue. Hoby doesn’t take any crap and eventually exposes Trump for the fraud that he is.
The Snopes article and video have since gone viral. This pleases me in several ways, not the least of which is the recognition and exposure Trackdown is getting, which currently runs on MeTV Saturday mornings (and also on the network Heroes and Icons) after having been absent from television for many years. The video has been shared and talked about on social media all week, with some 40,000 shares alone on Facebook as of the time of this posting. A lot of folks have never heard of the show. Many seem curious to learn more about it.
With that in mind, I wanted to point out a couple of things that I’ve noticed in comments and blog posts of recent days. First, Trackdown is NOT in the public domain. The show’s copyright and distribution rights are owned by CBS, which is the network it originally aired on from 1957 to 1959.
There is no official DVD release of the show. However, there is a DVD set that’s floating around out there, but the video quality is atrocious (to put it kindly). The source material was literally VHS recordings of the show from local TV stations and TVLand airings dating from the late 1980s. Those of us of a certain age know what VHS quality looked like.
I was thrilled when Trackdown began airing on MeTV back in October of 2016. I’ve tried to watch at least one episode on Saturday mornings on MeTV (two eps run back to back) and the film quality is exceptionally better than the cruddy DVD copy I’ve seen. The show is much more enjoyable to watch.
Which brings me to my ultimate wish (well, one of them anyway!) I’m talking to you CBS. With curiosity and interest in Trackdown increasing the more the video and Snopes article is shared, this would be a wonderful time to look at putting Trackdown out on DVD before the end of 2017.
With the return of Trackdown and The Greatest American Hero to TV screens it seemed appropriate to post an updated listing of where you can view these shows and others.
Trackdown can be seen on MeTV and on Heroes and Icons. Check your local listings for times and availability.
I Spy is currently not running on any television networks (although RetroTV still has a page for it on their website), but can be seen online via Hulu, Yahoo View and on the PROClassicTV streaming service. Yahoo View is free (with occasional commercials during the episode) while Hulu and PRO require subscriptions. However, in the case of PRO, individual episodes can be viewed for .99 a piece.
The Greatest American Hero can be seen on Heroes and Icons and streaming on Hulu with subscription and for free on Yahoo View. Yes, the pilot episode is conspicuously absent from the online streaming services.
You can also check out JustWatch.com, which currently lists where you can find 17 Culp films and TV series’ that can be viewed online or purchased. I consider it my civic duty to warn you to NOT waste your money on National Lampoon’s Movie Madness. Just don’t. Trust me.
If being featured on a bubblegum trading card is a sign of success, Robert Culp hit pay dirt when Trackdown was included in the 1958 Topps TV Westerns trading card set. The set featured several TV westerns including Gunsmoke, Have Gun Will Travel, Wanted: Dead or Alive, Wagon Train and several others. A total of 71 cards were in the set with most shows having five or six cards a piece (Gunsmoke had a whopping 15!). The set was very popular and the cards continue to circulate among collectors today.
Trackdown had five cards in the set and is the second show featured (after Gunsmoke) in the set.
Back a couple of months ago I found this great blog post by Justine who, as an 11-year-old child, wrote a fan letter to Robert Culp back in 1958 during the time of Trackdown. The letter is a wonderful example of a young girl’s first celebrity crush and the seriousness (at age eleven) at which she approached it.
She certainly had more chutzpah than me at age eleven. Not only in writing a letter to a fave celeb with intent to have it sent but for using the word “yearn” in it. Sure, I’ve yearned for Robert Culp, but I dunno I would have had the guts to tell him that. Ever. (Mr. Culp, unfortunately, never saw the letter as it was intercepted by Justine’s mother. But in doing so the letter ended up being preserved to be shared all these years later.)
Alas, however, Justine’s yearn for Mr. Culp was short lived despite saying in her letter, “I have seen many a western, (such as Maverick) and liked the stars, but never have I liked anyone as much as I like you. Please don’t forget this letter and that I will always like you more than you think.”