Tales of Wells Fargo is set in the 1870s and 1880s. This episode came from a sixth and final season where the show expanded its format to an hour and went from black-and-white to color.
In “New Orleans Trackdown,” a Wells Fargo stage is held up by two robbers. They are defeated by a passenger who uses a form of foot-fighting martial arts. However, just as stage driver Beau McCloud (Jack Ging) thinks the day has been saved, his rescuer knocks him out and takes a box from the mailbag.
It turns out that the jewelry box contained a necklace that was insured for $250,000 (nearly $7.5 million in today’s dollars, assuming the episode was set in 1880). Wells Fargo agent Jim Hardie (Dale Robertson) recognizes the description of the technique used by the second robber as a gentlemanly foot fighting technique used in New Orleans. So Hardie grabs his fanciest outfit and travels to New Orleans.
There he interviews the jeweler (Bob Bailey) who sent the necklace and insured it. He finds that it was purchased from a prominent and formerly wealthy New Orleans family who isn’t doing as well after the Civil War.
Confession: I’d never seen an episode of Tales of Wells Fargo before watching this, and I can’t recommend this as an entry point, though not because the story was hard to follow. It was probably a much better show than this in its early days. In its first two seasons, Tales of Wells Fargo was a top ten show. This episode’s quality is far below that.
The most interesting thing about this episode is the oddity of seeing Bob Bailey, the voice of the most noted insurance investigator of them all, playing a beneficiary of a big insurance policy. The initial stage robbery was also pretty good.
After that, the episode really seems to move at a glacial pace. We learn that Beau McCloud got a promotion (yay, I guess) so that the series could retool for its last twenty episodes with other characters. The scenes in New Orleans are tedious, focusing on the family that sold the jewels and their inability to let the wheel-chair bound matriarch of the family know that they are no longer filthy rich. There is a point to be made there, but the show is awfully long-winded in making it.
The show could have worked with a little less time spent on the family and a little more intrigue and mystery over what happened to the necklace. However, the series undermined the sense of mystery with a character who seemed to exist to make clear who the bad guy was. It felt like the writers were unsure what to do with an hour-long run time, and the result was meandering and tedious.
As for Bob Bailey’s performance, he was fine, but there wasn’t a whole lot to his character. The writing gave Bailey little to work with.
The later episodes of Tales of Wells Fargo are only available with the Starz app. If you subscribe to Starz or can get a free trial to watch it, and you’re curious to see one of Bob Bailey’s last acting roles, than maybe it’s worth watching.
Otherwise, I can’t recommend it. “New Orleans Trackdown” is a below-average show of once-solid TV series.
Rating: 2.0 out of 5.0