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Norris Decides to End ‘Walker, Texas Ranger,’ a CBS Stalwart

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Although a Texan will soon be in the White House, “Walker, Texas Ranger” is riding off into the sunset after eight years patrolling Saturday nights.

The Chuck Norris action series about a modern-day Texas Ranger will officially end its run on CBS this spring, the actor confirmed in an interview. Norris, who doubles as the program’s executive producer along with his brother, Aaron, stressed the decision was his own.

“Being the executive producer and the lead doesn’t give you much time for a life,” said the martial-arts star, who appeared in numerous films prior to the series and intends to focus on movies again.

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Norris, 60, added in regard to the timing, “You always want to try to quit as a winner.”

Though “Walker” continues to win its time period, ratings for the show have been steadily declining. Moved an hour earlier this fall to 9 p.m. Saturdays, the series is averaging 10.2 million viewers--about 2 million below last season and down more than 4 million from the previous year.

A CBS spokesman expressed gratitude to Norris, calling the show “an unsung hero” of the network’s Saturday lineup. CBS dominated the night for years thanks to the combination of “Walker” and the western “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.”

Despite becoming a staple of CBS’ schedule, “Walker” nearly didn’t get out of the starting gate. Ten days before the program made its debut in April 1993, Cannon Television, the studio behind it, abruptly shut down--citing financial troubles--after shooting just three episodes. When the show premiered to blockbuster ratings, CBS stepped in as a partner to help finance production.

“I feel very blessed that we’ve done eight years,” Norris said, noting that the program will finish its run with more than 200 episodes. The producers are planning a two-hour finale in May that will bring closure to the series, he added.

“Walker” has long been identified among the most violent shows on network television. In 1998, the program was one of only two prime-time series (the other being a short-lived NBC show, “Dark Skies”) that a UCLA Center for Communication Policy study deemed to contain “serious concerns” regarding its presentation of violent content.

Norris has long objected to that characterization, saying he believes “Walker” is a family-oriented show and often hears from fans who say they watch the program as a family Saturday nights.


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