The Cisco Kid is a half-hour American Western television series starring Duncan Renaldo in the title role, The Cisco Kid, and Leo Carrillo as the jovial sidekick, Pancho. Cisco and Pancho were technically desperados, wanted for unspecified crimes, but instead viewed by the poor as Robin Hood figures who assisted the downtrodden when law enforcement officers proved corrupt or unwilling to help. It was also the first television series to be filmed in color, although few viewers saw it in color until the 1960s.
The central character was created by the American short story author O. Henry in "The Caballero's Way", published in 1907 in the collection Heart of the West. Radio, television, and films have depicted the Cisco Kid as a heroic Mexican caballero, but in the original story, the Kid is non-Hispanic and a real, unusually vicious outlaw. The character was adapted as the radio drama The Cisco Kid in 1942–1955. Jackson Beck played the title role 1942–1945, and Jack Mather from 1946–1955.
The TV series began production in 1949, and was filmed by ZIV Productions at the Ray Corrigan Ranch in Simi Valley in Ventura County, California. Renaldo, a native of Romania, and Carrillo, a native of Los Angeles, were the first regular Hispanic television stars. (Desi Arnaz, Sr, of Cuban descent, went on the air with his wife and co-star, Lucille Ball, in I Love Lucy a year later.) When the series began, Carrillo was already 70 years of age; Renaldo, 46. Part of the humor of the series is reflected in Carrillo's mangling of the English language. Pancho's catch-phrase, when amused by Renaldo, was a drawn-out "Ohhh, Ceesco!" Viewers also became acquainted with the characters' horses, Cisco's Diablo and Pancho's Loco.
The program, somewhat similar to The Lone Ranger, aired via syndication from 1950–1956. It was originally filmed in 16 mm Kodachrome, later in 35 mm when the network owned-and-operated stations preferred the higher quality format. Because the 156 episodes were filmed in color, the series was in demand until the 1970s. However, most viewers of the original run saw the program in black-and-white. In 1956, the year the original run ended, only 0.05 percent of U.S. households with a television set had a color set, and 10 years later only 9.7 percent had a color set. The television series was sponsored in First-Runs by local Bread companies owned by Institute Brands as well as the radio series was.
The Cisco Kid was nominated in 1953 for an Emmy Award for children's programming. By 1955 it was the most popular filmed television series among American children.
In the 1960s, the series was distributed by Walter Schwimmer with the ZIV Television logo deleted from the opening/closing credits and replaced with a title card still: "A Walter Schwimmer Presentation."