If you were being forced off your land by the greedy railroad and its hired guns, you might want to wire Paladin or the Cartwright boys. But you'd do even better to have the Barkleys on your side. The Barkleys prove to be the feistiest guns in the West in "Palms of Glory," the first-and best-episode of The Big Valley (Sunday at 3 p.m. on Family).
The family is shaken up not only by the threat to the valley-the San Joaquin-but by a secret carried by a stranger (Lee Majors). Victoria (Barbara Stanwyck) and her children-Nick (Peter Breck), Jarrod (Richard Long), Eugene (Charles Briles) and Audra (Linda Evans)-triumph, thanks to some rousing speeches and a few rounds of ammo.
The Barkleys retain their pluck during the first episodes: Nick is the ultimate hothead, Audra uses her riding crop on anyone who says the wrong thing, and Victoria, even in her most elegant gown, wears the pants in the family. Unfortunately, the Barkleys soon mellow and become too much like the characters on every other Western-all except student Eugene, who after a handful of episodes never returns from college and is never referred to again.
"The Big Valley," which was the first series for Linda Evans and Lee Majors, had a respectable run, from 1965-69.