From time to time, people have asked Paul Haggis about “Walker, Texas Ranger,” which he co-created.
“You can’t kill it with a stick,” he would say with a grin.
Not that he would want to; the show has been an eternal payday. It ran for nine years and 196 episodes … was a TV movie … reran on cable … reached more than 100 countries … and now is back as “Walker,” debuting at 8 p.m. Thursday (Jan. 21) on CW.
It has spanned generations. When the show debuted in 1983, Jared Padalecki (shown here), the new Cordell Walker, was 11; Lindsey Morgan, who plays his ranger partner Micki Rodriguez, was 3.
Both are native Texans, so can we assume they watched the show?
Yes, Padalecki told the Television Critics Association in a virtual session. It “was certainly on the TV more times than I can count. I don’t know if I would win a trivia game about the original ‘Walker, Texas Ranger,’ but I did grow up watching the show.”
And no, Morgan told the TCA. “My mom boycotted television, … so I didn’t grow up with a TV. And I find it incredibly ironic that now I’m a television actress.”
She’s a busy one, encased in the CW mini-network. For all seven seasons of “The 100,” she was Raven Reyes, a hot-shot mechanic and explosives expert.
Padalecki can top that: He was on a CW show before there was a CW.
“Supernatural” began on the WB network, then became a key part of the new network when WB and UPN merged. The show ran 15 seasons, tying it with “ER” for No. 6 among longest-lasting dramas (trailing “Gunsmoke,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Lassie” and two “Law & Order” series).
Logic might say he was ready for a long vacation.. Instead, said producer Anna Fricke: “Jared, for some reason, wanted to go back to work. I’m not quite sure why, but I’m very grateful.”
They talked about various ideas, but Padalecki says he was drawn to a news story about an officer who was torn by being expected to take a 3-year-old away from his or her immigrant parents.
“That empathy and that emotion struck me,” Padalecki said. To be “caught between the inevitable rock and a hard place, where you’re bound by duty, but you still have (your own) moral code.”
As they talked about it, that multi-dimensional lawman became Cordell Walker as a young man.
The original “Walker, Texas Ranger” was fashioned around Chuck Norris. This was an earnest cop with martial-arts skills and, occasionally, a droll sense of humor.
Now we see a different version. Compared to Norris at the start of the series, Padalecki is younger (38 to 53), taller (6-foot-4 to 5-foot-10), but just as unshaven. We catch Walker at a time when he’s in deep despair and spends little time with his kids.
Padalecki may fit the first part – he’s been frank about his trouble with depression – but not the part about ignoring kids. “He’s actually up with them in the morning and usually putting them to bed at night,” said his wife Genevieve.
“Walker” is filmed in Austin, Texas, where they live, and she plays his wife (mostly in flashbacks) in the series. “We really enjoy working … We’re kind of those A-type personalities,” she said.
They may need to be, because he talks about “15 years on ‘Supernatural’ … and 15 years on ‘Walker.’”
That would perpetuate the windfall for the four “Walker, Texas Ranger” creators, including Haggis.
After working on the pilot script, Haggis never returned to the show. He’s gone on to co-write two James Bond movies, two Clint Eastwood movies (getting Oscar nominations for both, “Million Dollar Baby” and “Letter From Iwo Jima”); he won Oscars for writing and producing “Crash,” which he also directed.
Those films – even the best ones – fade away; “Walker” doesn’t;. You can’t kill it with a stick.