.Every once in a while, I’d like to take a look at some obscure television shows that never quite hit their stride and are mostly forgotten. While Dusty’s Trail is a piece of nonsense and fluff, it’s the type of comedy that I enjoy.
It also has the fingerprints of the brilliant comedy writing team of Rocky and Irma Kalish- which means there is a good dose of wit and intelligence tossed in with the comedic.
Rocky and Irma Kalish are one of the classic writing/producing teams in the history of television. Irma Kalish was (and is) one of the pioneering female writers that blazed the way for women in television. Their list of credits were incredible including being showrunners for Good Times, Too Close For Comfort, Family Affair and many more- they wrote together or separately for shows such as My Three Sons, Family Affair, Maude, All in the Family, Good Times, The Facts of Life, The Jeffersons, Gilligan’s Island, I Dream of Jeannie, The Bob Cummings Show, The Bob Newhart Show, My Favorite Martian and countless others. Irma was (and is) a leader at the WGA.
So we were amused when our good friend, the talented late Rocky Kalish and his wife, the pioneering Irma Kalish, who were writers on this Sherwood Schwartz derivative of Gilligan’s Island called Dusty’s Trail in 1973 -told us that they liked this program. They took the elements of Gilligan’s Island and throw in a dash of F Troop to help create Dusty’s Trail.
Rocky Kalish, who co-created Gilligan’s Island along with writing episodes of F Troop said that he actually thought that this show had flashes of inspiration. He thought the casting of Gilligan-Bob Denver and F Troop’s Forrest Tucker was an inspired idea. Add in two of the girls from Petticoat Junction (Lori Saunders and Jeanine Riley) along with the versatile Ivor Francis -it made for a versatile cast.
Dusty’s Trail aired in syndication from September 1973 to March 1974 starring Bob Denver and Forrest Tucker. The series is a western-themed reworking of Gilligan’s Island. The series, set in the latter 19th century, is about a small, diverse cluster of lost travelers who become separated from their wagon train.
The storyline was familiar- Two coachmen and five passengers of a wagon and stagecoach become separated from their wagon train on the way to California in the early 1870s. The group includes wagonmaster Mr. Callahan and his shotgun lookout Dusty, Mr. and Mrs. Brookhaven (a wealthy Eastern banker and his wife), book-smarts thinker Andy, dance-hall girl Lulu McQueen, and farm girl Betsy. The show follows their adventures while they attempt to return to their wagon train. According to the theme song, “…Dusty’s the reason for their plight, thanks to Dusty – nothing’s right”.
Bob Denver said that Dusty’s Trail was his favorite show to perform. “At that time I still had some animus at how CBS threw us in the dumper. Herb Edelman and I’d done “The Good Guys”– but sour critics said it should have been just called ‘Guys’. Gilligan repeats were on the tube more than Cronkite, and its royalties about kaput. I told myself to just enjoy the ride, and if it (Dusty’s Trail) hit paydirt, super, if not, then it wasn’t in the cards. It was my best year in front of a camera.