Sugarfoot is an American western television series that aired on ABC from 1957-61 on Tuesday nights on a “shared” slot basis – rotating with Cheyenne (1st season); Cheyenne and Bronco (2nd season); and Bronco (3rd season). The Warner Bros production stars Will Hutchins as Tom Brewster, an Easterner who comes to the Oklahoma Territory to become a lawyer. Jack Elam is cast in occasional episodes as sidekick Toothy Thompson. Brewster was a correspondence-school student whose apparent lack of cowboy skills earned him the nickname “Sugarfoot”, a designation even below that of a tenderfoot.
Sugarfoot had no relation to the 1951 Randolph Scott Western film Sugarfoot aside from the studio owning the title (and the theme music), but its pilot episode was a remake of an offbeat 1954 western film called The Boy from Oklahoma, starring Will Rogers, Jr., as Tom Brewster. The pilot and premiere episode, “Brannigan’s Boots,” was so similar to The Boy from Oklahoma that Sheb Wooley and Slim Pickens reprised their roles from the film.
As played by Rogers in the film, Brewster avoided firearms but preferred to vanquish villains with his roping skills (à la Will Rogers, Sr.) if friendly persuasion failed. Perhaps for practical reasons, the pilot altered the character slightly and made Brewster reluctant to use firearms (or any other kind of violence) but able and willing to do so when there was no alternative. That remained his stance throughout the series, and the title song mentions that Sugarfoot carries a rifle and a law book.
Whenever he enters a saloon, Sugarfoot refuses alcohol and orders sarsaparilla “with a dash of cherry” (sarsaparilla is a drink similar to root beer).
Sugarfoot was one of the earliest products of the alliance between ABC and the fledgling Warner Brothers Television Department, chaired by William T. Orr. During the same period, other similar programs would appear, including Maverick, Cheyenne, Bronco, Lawman, and Colt .45. Hutchins appeared as Sugarfoot in crossover episodes of Cheyenne and Maverick, and in an installment of Bronco called “The Yankee Tornado”, with Peter Breck as a young Theodore Roosevelt. Jack Kelly appeared as Bart Maverick in the Sugarfoot episode “A Price on His Head.”
Sugarfoot is only partly set in Oklahoma; the character seems to appear at any place in the West though geographic place names are often missing in the scripts. He often journeys south of the border into Mexico, and numerous episodes are rich in Hispanic culture, with various roles played by Mexican or Mexican-American actors.