What Do ‘Walker’ &’ ‘Walker, Texas Ranger’ Have in Common?

Walker Jared Padalecki Walker Texas Ranger Chuck Norris
Rebecca Brenneman / ©The CW ; Cliff Lipson /© CBS /Courtesy Everett Collection

The Walker premiere starring Jared Padalecki, is finally here. There’s been plenty of ink (and video) spilled on this reimagining of the classic Walker, Texas Ranger, which some of you remember as an excuse to watch Chuck Norris kick ass and take names on TV. But how similar are the two shows?

Below, we break down the key differences.

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Then: A Martial Arts Extravaganza

In Walker, Texas Ranger — which aired eight seasons on CBS between 1993 and 2001, and continued with the 2005 CBS movie Walker, Texas Ranger: Trial by Fire — Norris played Cordell Walker, a pretty hardcore Vietnam Vet and Texas Ranger who relied more on his martial arts training than more conventional means of law enforcement. The show, which some describe as campy, was also excessively violent.

Now: Family Drama First

The new Cordell is also a Texas Ranger, but he’s also a family man, a widower and father who returns home to Austin after being undercover for two years — work that includes investigating his wife’s suspicious death.

“The arc of this first season is about a man not just coming home and healing and dealing with his own grief, but also realizing what it is to be the parent and to have to hold up an emotional end of the bargain with his kids that he didn’t have to before,” writer and executive producer Anna Fricke recently told TV Insider. “The center of the show is definitely the Walker family and the found family he has with his partner.”

Then: A Partner With Muscle

In Walker, Texas Ranger, Clarence Gilyard (Matlock) played Jimmy Trivette, a former Dallas Cowboys star who becomes Cordell’s partner. In an interview with getTV, Gilyard said he landed the part because of his physicality: “Because I was a martial artist, because I rodeoed, because I played college football. All those things that was what the character was.”

The cast also included Sheree J. Wilson as Alex Cahill, an assistant district attorney who becomes Cordell’s wife, and Noble Willingham as C.D. Parker, a retired Texas Ranger Captain who can’t seem to give up the job. Along the way, a number of big names and rising stars appeared Walker, Texas Ranger, including RuPaul Charles, Selena Gomez, and— in a widely mocked story arcHaley Joel Osment.

Now: A Trailblazing Woman As Partner

In Walker, Lindsey Morgan (The 100) plays Cordell’s new partner Micki Ramirez, described as the rare female Latina Texas Ranger. She’s a focused and observant Army vet who has years of experience with gender discrimination.

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Then: Violence Aplenty

The Norris version of the character subscribes to an “attack first, asks questions later” modus operandi. For example, in the very first episode’s first scene, Cordell repeatedly kicks a bad guy, makes a wisecrack about his “right” to violence being his right fist, and then punches the already-bloodied suspect.

Now: A Roundhouse Kick Moratorium

The CW’s reimagining is decidedly less violent, both because of generational differences, and the increasing awareness of the use of violent police tactics countrywide.

Then: Racial Stereotypes

The 1990s version addressed racism in some storylines, but it also perpetuated racial stereotypes.

Now: Racial Sensitivity

“Suddenly a show about law enforcement in a very divided state such as Texas means so much more now in our world today than it would have pre-2020,” Morgan told reporters during a recent CW press day. “So just from my position and the character I play, a big obstacle and learning challenge that I face daily, is where do I fit as a Mexican woman in a majority-Caucasian law enforcement team in a state that is, for the history of it, been majority conservative and not caring too much about marginalized communities and immigrants. So, I love that my character is placed in a position of these two worlds and these two kind of warring communities, but hoping to be a liaison and hoping that we can tell a story of tolerance and a story from two perspectives.”

Now & Then: Mitch Pileggi

Mitch Pileggi, perhaps most famous for playing Skinner on The X-Files, guest-starred in a 1998 episode of Walker, Texas Ranger. But now he’s a star of Walker, playing Cordell’s “traditional rancher father,” according to The CW’s press release.

Meanwhile, Molly Hagan portrays Cordell’s “perceptive” mother, Violet Brinson and Kale Culley play his kids, Keegan Allen stars as Cordell A.D.A. brother, and Coby Bell plays his partner-turned-captain.

Walker, Series Premiere, Thursday, January 21, 8/7c, The CW