GUNS OF PARADISE — 10 Unforgettable Episodes of the Underrated 1980s Western

Lee Horsley

“You need to stop thinking of yourself as a gunfighter and decide that you’re a man with a family,” Amelia Lawson (Sigrid Thornton) tells her sometimes boyfriend Ethan Cord (Lee Horsley) in an episode of Paradise (a.k.a. Guns of Paradise).  

Ethan’s dilemma — carefree gunslinger or responsible family man — lies at the core of this inventive action drama, which debuted on CBS in October of 1988. Set in a Northern California mining town in the early 1890s, Paradise tells the story of a notorious hired gun who inherits his sister’s four kids: 13-year-old Claire (Jenny Beck), 11-year-old Joseph (Matthew Newmark), and youngins Ben (Brian Lando) and George (Michael Patrick Carter).

Amelia, owner of the local bank since her husband Pierce (Charles Frank) deserted her, sets Ethan up in ranch in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. There, with the occasional help of his Native American medicine man friend John Taylor (Dehl Berti), Ethan begins a new life with his niece and nephews. But hanging up his gun belt may not be so easy, as he and the kids learn when foes come calling. 

GUNS OF PARADISE - Lee Horsley, Sigrid Thorton

Co-created by David Jacobs, the mastermind behind the long-running nighttime soap operas Dallas and Knots Landing, Paradise was critically acclaimed and fiercely beloved by its loyal fanbase. It was also perennially low-rated and teetered on the brink of cancellation for its entire three-season run. After a delightfully soapy inaugural season focusing on the will-they-or-won’t they courtship between Ethan and Amelia, the series pivoted to a more action-packed format with big name guest stars for season two. Season three found Ethan with a new job as Paradise’s (reluctant) marshal with a new partner in crime: John Terlesky as handsome, hot-headed Dakota. It also came with a name change, as Paradise became Guns of Paradise.

Despite network tinkering, the show’s strength always lied in its core cast. Horsley is excellent as the super-heroic Ethan, equally believable as a masterful gunfighter and nervous suitor. Australian Thornton (best known to American audiences for The Man From Snowy River and All The Rivers Run) is nuanced as a woman of culture attracted to the rough-and-tumble Ethan, but who fears the consequences of his profession. And the kids are unusually good, particularly Lando and Carter, who function as duo often teamed with Berti as their mentor. 

GUNS OF PARADISE: Jenny Beck, Matthew Newmark, Brian Lando, Michael Patrick Carter, Lee Horsley, Sigrid Thorton, Dehl Berti

Paradise boasts an all-star team of guest stars, including Western icons like Chuck Connors, Johnny Crawford, Hugh O’Brien, Gene Barry, John Schneider and Robert Fuller. It also features a strong supporting cast of townspeople, including: James Crittenden as cowardly deputy Charlie; Mack Dryden as bespectacled bartender Scotty; John Bloom as hulking blacksmith Tiny; Michael Ensign as high-strung grocer Cyrus Axelrod ; Benjamin Lum as Chinese shopkeeper Mr. Lee, and Warren Munson as Henderson, who (SPOILER ALERT) steals the bank away from Amelia at the end of season one.  

Whether you’re a new convert to Paradise or a fan for thirty years, getTV is the place to be this fall! Guns of Paradise is now on Saturdays, with two episodes back-to-back starting at 11am ET. And rarely rerun episodes from season three have their getTV premiere beginning Sunday, November 24 at 4p ET.

Here are ten episodes to look for:

1. The News From St. Louis (Season 1, Episode 1)

Ethan’s dance hall actress sister (Kathryn Leigh Scott of Dark Shadows) takes ill and sends her kids from St. Louis to Paradise, California to live with their uncle. This episode, written and directed by series co-creator David Jacobs, establishes the characters and situations that will carry through the entire series.

 

GUNS OF PARADISE: Jenny Beck, Matthew Newmark, Brian Lando, Michael Patrick Carter 

2. Founders’ Day (Season 1, Episode 3)

Amelia has to deal with the wrath of a vengeful father after she shoots and kills a young bank robber. William Smith, best known to getTV viewers as hunky Ranger Joe Riley on Laredo, guest stars.

 LAREDO: Neville Brand, Peter Brown, Phillip Carey, William Smith

3. Childhood’s End (Season 1, Episode 8)

A traveling brothel comes to town, run by one of Ethan’s former paramours. Milla Jovovich (The Fifth Element) guest stars as an exploited teenaged girl who might just be Ethan’s daughter.

GUNS OF PARADISE: Milla Jovovich, Irene Miracle  

4. A Matter of Honor and Honor Bound (Season 1, Episodes 17-18)

Veteran hired gun Gideon McKay (Chuck Connors, The Rifleman) comes to town to work for a landowner (Dennis Patrick, Dark Shadows and Dallas) who’s terrorizing small ranchers. This pits Ethan against his oldest friend and gunslinging mentor. getTV viewers will recognize Patrick as a member of the KKK-style group that recruits Archie on All In The Family.

GUNS OF PARADISE: Lee Horsley, Chuck Connors

 5. A Gathering of Guns (Season 2, Episode 1)

Paradise returned for season two with a feature-length adventure featuring TV Western icons. When Ethan is kidnapped by a sadistic jailer (Charles Napier) seeking Confederate gold, Amelia convinces legendary lawmen to rescue him. Hugh O’Brien and Gene Barry guest star as Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson, recreating their famous 1950s roles. John Schneider (The Dukes Of Hazzard) plays Pat Garrett, with Jack Elam and Ray Walston rounding out the guest cast.

GUNS OF PARADISE: Hugh O'Brian as Wyatt Earp, Gene Barry as Bat Materson 

6. Home Again (Season 2, Episode 2)

Ike and Billy Clanton’s younger brother (Robert Fuller, Laramie and Emergency) attempts to settle a score with Wyatt Earp (Hugh O’Brien) on the tenth anniversary of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. This is a continuation of the two-hour season opener.

 

LARAMIE: Robert Fuller 

 7. Crossfire (Season 2, Episode 18)

 Gideon McKay (Chuck Connors) returns to town to intercede in a range war, brokered by his shiftless son (Johnny Crawford). This 1990 episode reunited Connors and Crawford as father and son 32 years after they first co-starred on The Rifleman. 

THE RIFLEMAN: Chuck Connors, Johnny Crawford 

 8. Dust On The Wind (Season 2 finale)

 The mine closes, the hotel shuts down, and Ethan and the kids pack up to move to Virginia City. One problem: Amelia wants to stay and save Paradise. James Hampton (F-Troop) guest stars

F-TROOP: James Hampton 

 9. Out Of The Ashes (Season 3, Episode 1)

 Paradise once again escaped cancellation and returned as mid-season replacement in January of 1991 with a new cast member John Terlesky, a new theme song and a new title: Guns Of Paradise. Robert Fuller returns in a different role as the town’s new marshal, whose corruption leads to Ethan finally taking the job.


GUNS OF PARADISE: Lee Horsley, John Terlesky

10. Unfinished Business (Season 3, Episode 13)

Our hero goes up against a vengeful gunfighter (Brian Libby) as Ethan Cord and Guns Of Paradise ride off into the sunset after three seasons. This episode is a genuine series finale packed with touching flashbacks, so have tissues handy!

 GUNS OF PARADISE: Jenny Beck, Matthew Newmark, Brian Lando, Michael Patrick Carter, Lee Horsley

 Guns of Paradise airs Saturdays at 11a and 12p ET and Sundays at 4p ET. Season three debuts Sunday November 24. For more, visit the getTV schedule.

 

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