A whiff of bait ’n’ switch has always circled this series, which ran for two seasons, 1959-61, on NBC. The idea was that Henry Fonda, as Chief Marshal Simon Fry, would be starring in a Western series. His credit is by far the biggest, but the name of the show, after all, is The Deputy. The deputy, when he chose to wear the badge officially, was actor Allen Case as Clay McCord. McCord had given up adventuring and such to run a store, even though he was clearly far more competent at fightin’ and chasin’ and shootin’.
Fonda did run a few episodes, and he came in and out of most of the others, generally just to mess with McCord—their banter is one of the best elements of the series. Fonda is wicked in the way he manipulates McCord, and McCord is good at standing up to him.
The show was loaded with actors on their way to something better or on their way out. A perfect example is the 1960 show “The Last Gunfight,” which starred ’40s-50s tough guy veteran Charles McGraw as a retired gunfighter up against Robert Redford in one of his first TV appearances. The show took place in Silver City, Arizona Territory, in 1880, and it was worth seeing just to watch Fonda pull the strings.