Empire is an hour-long Western television series set on a 1960s 500,000-acre (2,000 km2) ranch in New Mexico, starring Richard Egan, Terry Moore, and Ryan O'Neal. It ran on NBC from September 25, 1962, to May 14, 1963.
In the second abbreviated season, from September 24 to December 31, 1963, it was renamed Redigo after Egan's title character, Jim Redigo, the general manager of the fictitious Garrett ranch in Empire, and reduced to a half-hour.
Egan starred in the series at the age of forty-one, having previously been in the hit film A Summer Place, with the catchy theme song. Redigo was a rare ranch manager, having a Master of Business Administration degree. The ranch was located somewhere in the American Southwest, but the exact location was never pinpointed. The Garretts did have an empire. Besides ranching they were involved in oil, agriculture, and mining. The series has unusually- titled episodes.
Empire also featured 22-year-old Ryan O'Neal, some two years before he gained greater recognition as Rodney Harrington in ABC's Peyton Place. O'Neal, who began acting in 1959, played the son, Tal Garrett. Terry Moore portrayed O'Neal's 33-year-old sister, Connie, who had a romantic interest in Redigo. Their mother and ranch matriarch, Lucia, was played by 53-year-old Anne Seymour (1909–1988).
Another cast member, Warren Vanders, appeared in fifteen episodes as Chuck Davis. Anne Seymour and Terry Moore were dropped at mid-season; it was said that Seymour's character, Lucia, had died and Moore's character, Connie, had left the ranch in her grief. Charles Bronson, then forty-one, entered at mid-season in an all-male cast to portray the tough ranch hand, Paul Moreno, in thirteen remaining episodes.
In the second 15-episode season, O'Neal and Bronson were gone, too. Roger Davis, later of ABC's Alias Smith and Jones, was added to the cast as Redigo's new ranch hand. Elena Verdugo, later of Robert Young's Marcus Welby, M.D., starred as Gerry.
The pilot episode of Empire entitled "This Rugged Land", with Denver Pyle and Charles Bronson, never aired. In the pilot, a ranch foreman persecutes a man whom he believes killed his daughter.
Robert Vaughn guest starred as Captain Paul Terman, a paraplegic friend of Redigo's in need of life-saving spinal surgery, in the 1963 episode "No Small Wars." Inger Stevens also appeared as a paraplegic, Ellen Thompson, in another episode, "Duet for Eight Wheels". Jeremy Slate portrayed Mike Novak, a ranch hand whose competition with Tal Garrett ends in a deadly boxing match, in the 1963 episode "The Loner". Harry Dean Stanton was cast as Nick Crider in the 1963 episode "Nobody Dies on Saturday", along with William Schallert as Sully Mason and Don Gordon as Quinn Serrato.
Claude Akins was cast as Joe Horvath in two episodes, "Ride to a Fall" in 1962 and the unusually-titled "65 Miles Is a Long, Long Way" in 1963.Robert Culp, previously of CBS's Trackdown and later of NBC's I Spy, played an ambitious man who schemes to marry Terry Moore and fire Redigo in the 1963 episode "Where the Hawk Is Wheeling". John M. Pickard, formerly of Boots and Saddles and Gunslinger, was cast as a sheriff in the 1962 episode, "A Place to Put a Life".
Dayton Lummis appeared as Jason Simms, with Joanna Moore as Althea Dodd and Arthur O'Connell as Clayton Dodd in "Green, Green Hills" (Christmas Day, 1962). Joanna Moore thereafter married Ryan O'Neal and became the mother of actress Tatum O'Neal. Lummis was cast again on the series as Thomas Fenton Giler in the 1963 episode "Down There, the World."
In addition to the aforementioned, many other guest stars appeared on Empire, including:
Empire was created by Kathleen Hite, a writer for CBS's Gunsmoke. William Sackheim and Hal Hudson, formerly with CBS's Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre, produced the series, a Screen Gems offering. The program was filmed at the Eaves Movie Ranch near Santa Fe and near Storrie Lake in Las Vegas, New Mexico.
Empire had mediocre ratings opposite CBS's The Red Skelton Show and the last season of ABC's detective series, Hawaiian Eye with Robert Conrad and Connie Stevens. The series was reduced to a half-hour the second year, as Redigo. Redigo had by that time secured his own smaller ranch.
The shorter format made it difficult to develop complex characters, and the show was soon canceled. Still on Tuesday evenings, Redigo fared poorly against Red Skelton and ABC's military situation comedy McHale's Navy starring Ernest Borgnine.