The new CW drama, Walker, loosely based on the Chuck Norris CBS hit Walker, Texas Ranger from the ’90s debuted to record numbers – but there are some differences from the original show. A little over 2.4 million viewers tuned in to see star Jared Padalecki’s first television appearance since his long-running Supernatural series ended last year. It is safe to assume a great number of that audience were fans of the original Norris show. However, given the disappointment expressed by many of those same fans, it is too soon to tell if this new, revamped version of the Norris’ classic will keep their interest.
The original Walker, Texas Ranger was based on the Chuck Norris film Lone Wolf McQuade and ran on the CBS network for eight seasons from 1993 through 2001. There was even a television film of the series made in 2005. From 1997 the action-crime series about a legendary Texas Ranger and filmed in and around Dallas, Texas has aired in reruns or syndication on numerous networks since 1997 and can currently be seen on many networks and streaming sites. The show, aside from featuring a hero with a strict moral code, like a sheriff from the Wild West, was noted for its action and martial arts sequences.
Like its predecessor, the new CW Walker, anchoring the network’s 2021 Thursday night line-up is also set and filmed in Texas, near Austin, a little further south from the original. That, the lead characters’ name, and that he’s a Texas Ranger are essentially the only similarities to the original. Before the show went into production it had to obtain permission from Chuck Norris, who still owned the rights to the series. It is reported Norris gave the production and its altered storyline of this Walker being a widower with children returning to be a Ranger following his wife’s murder his blessing. While some of the changes approved by Chuck Norris are minor, some of the biggest ones are those most upsetting to fans of the original.
Walker, Texas Ranger’s Favorite Bar & Bar Owner Are Changed
Although going out to the local honky-tonk is not going to be an every night thing for Walker, given he’s just returned home from a long undercover assignment and needs to reconnect with his kids and family. He did make time in the premiere episode to stop by and say hello to the owner of the popular local nightspot, Geraldine “Geri” Broussard, played by Odette Annable, most recently known for playing Reign on Supergirl. Their first moments together clearly indicate there is some history between the two, whether because she was his late wife, Emily’s, best friend or something more is yet to be seen. What is obvious is that both are still shaken by Emily’s murder. Annable and Padalecki have an easy chemistry between them that’s shown when Walker coaxes a reluctant Geri from behind the bar for a friendly dance.
The place to be on the original Walker was C.D.’s Bar and Grill, owned and operated by retired Texas Ranger C.D. Parker. C.D. worked with young Ranger offering him guidance and advice. Throughout the series, Walker often consulted with his friend and former partner/mentor for advice on cases. Noted, too, that throughout the original series, while everyone else called him Walker, C.D. regularly addressed him by his first name, Cordell.
Cordell Walker’s Personality Is Different Than The Original
Though understandably, the new Walker is still grieving his late wife, the Walker introduced in the pilot seems to be a very moody and broody individual. The first time he appears on screen he’s in the back of his pickup drinking, parked near a gazebo where he and his wife spent time. He’s withdrawn and standoffish when a female Highway Patrol officer, Micki Ramirez (played by The 100’s Lindsey Morgan) finds him and takes him home. Later, he’s still not fully in control of his emotions when back on duty and he and his new partner, that same THP officer, now a Texas Ranger, question a suspect who goads and taunts him about his dead wife. He flies off the handle at the suspect and must be reined in by Micki. While his emotional outburst is understandable, the question remains, will it be part of his new partner’s job to keep an eye on him and keep him in control?
The original Walker was noted for playing his emotions close to his vest, one might even say he followed the code of the Old West. Known for his calm demeanor and stoicism, he was usually the one keeping others in line. Part of that could have been due to Norris incorporating his real-life upbringing and military training right into his character, as well as his life-long commitment to following the philosophy of his martial arts.
The New Walker, Texas Ranger Has A Big Family
One of the biggest differences between the two shows is that Padalecki’s version of Walker has a large family. He returns home to make amends with his troubled teenage children, who are struggling as he is with the loss of their mother. This Walker has a brother to confide in, who stepped in to be there for Walker’s children when he took a lengthy undercover assignment to sort out his feelings regarding Emily’s death. The entire family will essentially live with or gather at the family ranch run by Walker’s parents, Abilene and Bonham Walker. Casting veterans Molly Hagan and Mitch Pileggi in these roles is a definite plus for the series.
Chuck Norris’ Walker was, as the aptly named movie upon which the original series was based, a lone wolf. He did have a collection of loyal friends and colleagues around him throughout the run of the series, it wasn’t until the final two seasons of the show that he and his long-time companion, Alexandra, “Alex” Cahill married and had a child together.
He’s Not Influenced By Native Amerian Culture Like The Original Walker
While the new Cordell Walker grew up with his family around him, the original Walker was an orphan, raised on a Cherokee reservation by his paternal uncle, Ray Firewalker. Walker’s respect for Native American culture was a thematic throughline of the original series as he was taught during his formative years to hold great respect for elders, the earth, and nature. There were times Chuck Norris’ Walker would turn to his Native American background to help him during difficult situations. His upbringing was also influential in his overall temperament and several times during the run of the series he relied on skills learned on the reservation for survival.
The New Walker Doesn’t Rely On Martial Arts
One of the biggest changes to the CW version of Walker according to fans of the original was the distinct lack of big action scenes and the hero’s display of his martial arts prowess. Even though the new Walker held his own in fights during the episode there was little if any indication that the Walker reboot will rely on martial arts. In fact, when the episode did display martial arts action, it came from Walker’s new partner, Micki Ramirez.
The biggest draw of the original Walker, Texas Ranger was the intricately choreographed fight scenes where Chuck Norris, known more for his martial arts skills than his acting, used his skills to subdue the bad guys. That Walker was both a military veteran, a former Marine, and a martial arts expert.
While the new CW Walker bears little resemblance to the original Walker, Texas Ranger, it does share a strong common bond and that is the quest for justice. Although the intention of the new Walker was not to recreate or copy the original, it would do well to bring a few more elements of the original into its storylines. The initial response to the show was big, but it’s still too early to tell if this will be another successful retooling of a television classic for the network.