Jason McCord, a West Point graduate and decorated army officer, was a good man. But after the gruesome Battle of Bitter Creek, in which he was the only known survivor, he was court-martialed and then dishonorably discharged for cowardice. And rather than sully the good name of the Army commander who was actually responsible for the massacre, McCord kept his mouth shut and accepted blame. He was, in a word, Branded.
This premise was vividly recounted at the start of each half-hour episode: McCord’s commanding officer rips off his army decorations and breaks his saber in half, chucking the bottom half of it right out of the fort’s gates. McCord leaves the fort’s walls, picks up the broken half-saber, and heads out. It was a bit of a downer, but you don’t get a good tragic television outcast without a little pain and longing.
With no home and nowhere to turn, McCord traveled westward, putting his army training to use and doing engineer work for hire, always trying to prove through his actions that he didn’t deserve the brand of ‘coward.’ Often, his good, heroic deeds would prove just that to the people he met along the way. But every once in a while, in a painful dose of ‘you can’t win ’em all’ reality, there was nothing poor McCord could do to shake that indelible stamp of false rumor that followed him everywhere.
Branded was the second Western starring role for former pro athlete Chuck Connors, who had hit the frontier as The Rifleman a few years before. By this time, however, Westerns were starting to give way to sitcoms at the top of the ratings (Bonanza excepted, of course), and Branded left the air after 48 episodes.
USA / NBC – Goodson – Todman / 48×25 minute episode / Broadcast 24 January 1965 – 4 September 1966
Creator: Larry Cohen / Producers: Andrew J. Fenady, Cecil Baker / Theme Music: A. Alch, Dominic Frontiere
CHUCK CONNORS as Jason McCord
JOHN CARRADINE as Joshua McCord