The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents




A subversive Western with a dark sense of humour, Maverick soared to sixth place in the Nielsen ratings during its second season with a 30.4 share as well as winning an Emmy Award for Best Western Series in 1959. Starring the then relatively unknown James Garner as footloose frontier gambler Bret Maverick, shortly after joined by Jack Kelly as brother Bart, this hour-long series followed the duplicitous adventures and, more often, misadventures of the Mavericks in their pursuit of money and the easy life.

Starting out as a straight Western drama (the first three episodes, "The War of the Silver Kings", "Point Blank" and "According to Hoyle", were directed by feature Western auteur Budd Boetticher), the series soon developed a comedy streak after writer Marion Hargrove decided to liven up his scriptwriting work by inserting the simple stage direction: "Maverick looks at him with his beady little eyes." Other scriptwriters then followed suit. Garner, in particular, and Kelly joined in with the less-than-sincere spirit of the stories and Maverick took a unique turn away from the other, more formal and traditional Warner Brothers-produced Westerns then on the air (Lawman, Colt .45, Cheyenne and Sugarfoot).

The series was created by producer Roy Huggins and developed out of a story (co-written with Howard Browne) in which Huggins tried to see how many TV Western rules he could break and get away with; the script, ironically, was filmed as an episode of the "adult" Cheyenne series ("The Dark Rider") and featured guest-star Diane Brewster as a swindler and practiced cheat, a role she was later to take up as a recurring character, gambler Samantha Crawford, during the 1958-59 season of Maverick. "Maverick is Cheyenne, a conventional Western, turned inside out," said Huggins. "But with Maverick there was nothing coincidental about the inversion." The Maverick brothers were not heroes in the traditional Western sense. They were devious, cowardly card-sharps who exploited easy situations and quickly vanished when faced with potentially violent ones. A popular part of their repertoire for evading difficult moments was the "Pappyisms" that corrupted their speech. Quoting their old Pappy, and mentor, as a suitable excuse they were likely to come out with (when all else failed, for instance): "My old Pappy used to say 'If you can't fight 'em, and they won't let you join 'em, best get out of the county'."

Following the success of Cheyenne on ABC (from its premiere in 1955) the network asked Warner Brothers TV division to give them another hour-long Western program for their Sunday evening slot. Maverick premiered on 22 September 1957, and pretty soon won over the viewers from the powerful opposition of CBS's The Ed Sullivan Show and NBC's The Steve Allen Show, two programs that had been Sunday night favourites from the mid-1950s. With Garner alone starring in early episodes, Warners found that it was taking eight days to film a weekly show. They decided to introduce another character, Bret's brother, in order to keep the production on schedule. This strategy resulted in a weekly co-starring series when Jack Kelly's Bart was introduced in the "Hostage" episode (10 November 1957). With separate production units now working simultaneously Warners managed to supply a steady stream of episodes featuring either Bret or Bart on alternate weeks. Occasionally, both Maverick brothers were seen in the same episode, usually when they teamed up to help each other out of some difficult situation or to outwit even more treacherous characters than themselves.

The series also reveled in colourful characters as well as presenting wild parodies of other TV programs of the period. During the early seasons recurring guest characters popped in and out of the plots to foil or assist the brothers: Dandy Jim Buckley (played by Efrem Zimbalist Jr.), Gentleman Jack Darby (Richard Long), Big Mike McComb (Leo Gordon) and Bret's regular antagonist, the artful con-woman Samantha Crawford (Brewster). Among the more amusing episodes: "Gun-Shy" (second season) was a send-up of Gunsmoke featuring a hick character called Mort Dooley; "A Cure for Johnny Rain" (third season) spoofed Jack Webb's Dragnet with Garner doing a deadpan Joe Friday voice-over; "Hadley's Hunters" (fourth season) had Bart enlist the help of Ty Hardin (Bronco), Will Hutchins (Sugarfoot), Clint Walker (Cheyenne), John Russell and Peter Brown (Lawman) all playing their respective characters from the WB stable of Western TV series (and with Edd "Kookie" Byrnes from Warner Brothers 77 Sunset Strip as a blacksmith); and "Three Queens Full" (fifth season) was a wicked parody of Bonanza in which the Subrosa Ranch was run by Joe Wheelwright and his three sons, Moose, Henry and Small Paul. In addition, two other episodes ("The Wrecker" and "A State of Siege") were loose adaptations of Robert Louis Stevenson stories, albeit translated into the Maverick vein.

In 1960 actor James Garner and his Warner Brothers studio bosses clashed when Garner took out a lawsuit against the studio for breach of contract arising out of his suspension during the January-June writers' strike of that year. Warners claimed that it was justified in suspending Garner by invoking the force majeure clause in Garner's contract due to the writers' strike; the clause, in other words, meant that if forces beyond the control of the studio prevented it from making films, the studio didn't have to continue paying actors' salaries. It had been no secret at the time that Garner had wanted to be released from his contract ("Contracts are completely one-sided affairs. If you click, [the studio] owns you," he stated). Finally, in December 1960 the judge decided in favour of Garner. During the course of the testimony it was revealed that during the strike Warners had obtained--under the table--something in the number of 100 TV scripts, and that at one time the studio had as many as 14 writers working under the pseudonym of "W. Hermanos" (Spanish for "brothers").

Garner then went on to a successful feature film career but returned to series television in the 1970s with Nichols (1971-72) and the popular The Rockford Files (1974-80). He appeared as a guest star along with Jack Kelly in the 1978 TV movie/pilot The New Maverick, which produced the short-lived Young Maverick (1979-80) series, minus Garner; he also starred in the title role of Bret Maverick (1981-82) which he co-produced with Warners. A theatrical film version, Maverick, was produced in 1994 with Mel Gibson starring as Bret Maverick and Garner appearing as Bret's father; Richard Donner directed the Warner Brothers release.

As a replacement for Garner in the fourth season of the original series Warners brought on board Roger Moore, as cousin Beauregard, a Texas expatriate who had lived in England (a WB contract player, Moore had been transferred from another Warner Western series, The Alaskans, which had run only one season from 1959). When Moore departed after just one season another Maverick brother, Robert Colbert's Brent Maverick, a slight Garner/Bret lookalike, was introduced in the spring of 1961 to alternate adventures with Bart. Colbert stayed only until the end of that season, leaving the final (and longest remaining) Maverick, Jack Kelly, to ride out the last Maverick season (1961-62) alone, except for some early seasons' rerun episodes.

The series came to an end after 124 episodes, and with it a small-screen Western legend came to a close. Perhaps the ultimate credit for Maverick should go to creator-producer Roy Huggins for the originality to steer the series clear of the trite and the ordinary, and for not only trying something different but executing it with a comic flair.

-Tise Vahimagi


Bret Maverick (1957-1960)........................ James Garner  

Bart Maverick............................................... Jack Kelly  

Samantha Crawford (1958-1959).............. Diane Brewster  

Cousin Beauregard Maverick (1960-1961).... Roger Moore

Brent Maverick (1961).............................. Robert Colbert


Roy Huggins, William T. Orr, Howie Horwitz


124 Episodes


September 1957-September 1961   Sunday 7:30-8:30

September 1961-July 1962   Sunday 6:30-7:30


Anderson, Christopher. Hollywood/TV. Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press, 1994.

Barer, Burl. Maverick: The Making of the Movie and the Official Guide to the Television Series. Boston: Tuttle, 1994

Hargrove, Marion. "This is a Television Cowboy?" Life (New York), 19 January 1959.

Jackson, Ronald. Classic TV Westerns: A Pictorial History. Seacaucus, New Jersey: Carol, 1994.

MacDonald, J. Fred. Who Shot the Sheriff: The Rise and Fall of the Television Western. New York: Praeger, 1987.

Marsden, Michael T., and Jack Nachbar. "The Modern Popular Western: Radio, Television, Film and Print." In, A Literary History of the American West. Sponsored by The Western Literature Association. Fort Worth, Texas: Texas Christian University Press, 1987.

Robertson, Ed. Maverick, Legend of the West. Los Angeles: Pomegranate Press, 1994.

Strait, Raymond. James Garner, A Biography. New York: St. Martin's, 1985.

West, Richard. Television Westerns: Major And Minor Series, 1946-1978. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 1987.

Woolley, Lynn, Robert W. Malsbary, and Robert G. Strange, Jr. Warner Bros. Television: Every Show of the Fifties and Sixties Episode-By-Episode. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 1985.

Yoggy, Gary A. Riding the Video Range: The Rise and Fall of the Western on Television. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 1994.

James Garner on "Maverick" as the anti-hero
Richard L. Bare on the addition of the character, "Bart Maverick" on the TV show Maverick
Roy Huggins on the pilot of Maverick
James Garner on leaving Maverick
Leo Chaloukian on sound for Maverick
Marcy Carsey on her love of the show Maverick and meeting James Garner later in life
Who talked about this show

John Astin

View Interview
John Astin on appearing on Maverick with James Garner

Richard L. Bare

View Interview
Richard L. Bare on the addition of the character, "Bart Maverick" on the TV show Maverick
Richard L. Bare on directing Maverick
Richard L. Bare on narrating B-roll footage, featuring photos from the set of Maverick

William Blinn

View Interview
William Blinn on his earliest television writing jobs for the westerns Maverick, Laramie, Rawhide, and others

Marcy Carsey

View Interview
Marcy Carsey on her love of the show Maverick and meeting James Garner later in life

Leo Chaloukian

View Interview
Leo Chaloukian on sound for Maverick

James Garner

View Interview
James Garner on "Maverick" as the anti-hero
James Garner on leaving Maverick
James Garner on starring on the series Maverick
James Garner on his character, "Bret Maverick," on Maverick
James Garner on the sponsor of Maverick
James Garner on the pilot of Maverick, and how Jack Kelly came to be cast as "Bart Maverick"
James Garner on the typical Maverick workweek
James Garner on public reaction to Maverick and his fame
James Garner on the directing and writing of Maverick
James Garner on being typecast as "Bret Maverick" and the power of television
James Garner on the Maverick episode "A Shady Deal at Sunny Acres" (airdate: November 23, 1958)
James Garner on the Maverick episode "Gun-Shy" (airdate: January 11, 1959), a spoof of Gunsmoke
James Garner on returning to the role of "Bret Maverick" in the feature film "Maverick"
James Garner on "Maverick" as the anti-hero

Roy Huggins

View Interview
Roy Huggins on the pilot of Maverick
Roy Huggins on creating Maverick  
Roy Huggins on casting James Garner as "Bret Maverick" on Maverick 
Roy Huggins on the production schedule of Maverick which necessitated the addition of a second "Maverick" brother
Roy Huggins on casting Jack Kelly as "Bart Maverick" on Maverick
Roy Huggins on the writers and directors of Maverick 
Roy Huggins on Maverick being a different kind of western and the public reaction to the show
Roy Huggins on interference from the studio and network on Maverick and Budd Boetticher directing the show
Roy Huggins on the Maverick episode "Guy-Shy," which was a spoof of Gunsmoke
Roy Huggins on the Maverick  episode "Shady Deal at Sunny Acres"
Roy Huggins on Maverick  winning an Emmy
Roy Huggins on leaving Maverick in its third season
Roy Huggins on the various revivals of Maverick
Roy Huggins on being invited to work on the feature film version of Maverick 

Leslie H. Martinson

View Interview
Leslie H. Martinson on directing Maverick and winning an Emmy

Adam West

View Interview
Adam West on appearing on Maverick starring James Garner

All Shows