Here's why Chuck Connors ended The Rifleman
There were three great reasons.
The Rifleman was a very successful series. Despite some stiff competition, the series regularly scored ABC great ratings, frequently landing in the Top 10 shows broadcast during the time. While the show was well written, featuring compelling plotlines, its success was carried on the back of its star, Chuck Connors.
So why then, did The Rifleman end after just five seasons? Other TV Westerns, like Gunsmoke and Bonanza, were among the longest-running series in television history. Why was the plug pulled on The Rifleman, when it could've surely kept going for at least another season or two, at least?
As it turns out, the series' star was also the one who ended it all. He cited three primary reasons why The Rifleman ended its run. In a 1963 interview, Connors provided an Associated Press reporter with his list of grievances.
Predictably, the network was at least partially to blame for the kerfuffle. The producers wanted to extend The Rifleman into an hour-long show. However, ABC hesitated to go with them on that journey, and the network dragged its feet, causing some last-minute shakeups and decisions.
"I knew what Lucy [Ball, head of Desilu productions] would do to our ratings and I didn't want to wait around until our show was dropped and I might be an actor nobody wanted," Connors told the AP.
Creativity was another reason; after that many episodes, where do you go?
"The show would have gone five years, and that's long enough. By that time, you have done everything possible with your characters. If you keep on going, you're just cheating the public."
And finally, there was the fact that series co-star Johnny Crawford was growing up.
"Johnny Crawford was 12 when he started the show. He's now 17, and he is just as natural and nice as when we started. He should be going to college. It's up to his father whether he goes or not: at least I'll know nothing I did prevented him from going."