If you were a fan of Walker, Texas Ranger, it was probably because you wanted to see actor Chuck Norris kick some folks in the face. Chuck Norris played Cordell Walker in an action series tailored to a conservative audience. Now, Walker is taking a different approach with actor Jared Padalecki. What elements have the reimagined show retained from the original? So far, it seems like the show is still set in Texas, the main character is a ranger named Cordell Walker, and he’s still got a fair amount of facial hair happening. Otherwise, interviews have focused on what the new show isn’t, instead of what it is.
There have been a few interviews where Jared Padalecki discusses the idea behind his new show. He has said a few times that the team behind the show never wants the audience to be able to pin his character down as either a Democrat or Republican. In the original version with Chuck Norris, the show clearly targeted a conservative audience. Stepping away from that, and considering the very divided state of politics in the United States, it’s hard to say who the new show thinks its audience is, exactly.
Jared Padalecki told Variety, “This is not a show about a martial artist kicking minorities in the face; this is a show about a legit Texan saying, ‘Hey, I need to hear the whole story before I make a decision.’ So this version is less about what goes through somebody’s fists and feet, and more about what goes through somebody’s head and heart.”
In theory, this of course sounds good. No, you can’t have a show today where a person of the law is kicking people in the face. We have updated standards on what is and isn’t acceptable. But if you remove that stuff, what is the head and heart of Walker about? The trailer shows Cordell Walker as a serious man with a broken heart, whose wife has passed away. He has a new fiancé, and Walker is doing his job to the best of his abilities, though the trailer doesn’t talk about that much. We see Jared Padalecki lasso a man we assume is a fugitive. That part sounds very Texas, very Chuck Norris, but lands a little flat in the trailer.
The first looks at the show make Walker looks a little angsty, and maybe a little like it is going to take itself very seriously. This is something the Chuck Norris version definitely did not do, but Jared Padalecki promised “head and heart”. So far, the early reviews from critics are a bit rough. Brian Tallerico of RogerEbert.com said the show “forgets to give him a personality.” This is the kind of thing you get concerned about when actors talk about what a story is not more than what it is.
Jared Padalecki seems passionate about the project, even if he wants to distance a brand tied so tightly to the Chuck Norris legacy. Trailers can be misleading, and maybe a show on the Texas border about a lawmaker can somehow handle its stories without being political. If you’re ready to see what Jared Padalecki’s take on this character is all about, Walker premieres on the CW Thursday, January 21st. You can watch new episodes streaming on the CW’s website the day after they air.