In conversation this weekend about beloved TV themes, I neglected to mention or even think about “Illegal Smile,” which was of course the theme to ABC’s 1974-75 dramedy “The Texas Wheelers.” Offering the one-two punch of Gary Busey and Mark Hamill, “The Texas Wheelers” told the story of a rural Texan family being raised by their less-than-reputable father. ABC axed the show just four episodes in—despite a solid premise, “Wheelers” had no game against NBC’s wildly popular time slot rival “The Rockford Files.”
The most outstanding aspect of “The Texas Wheelers” to me remains the wry but hopeful loser anthem “Illegal Smile,” a tune that woke me up to the genius of John Prine’s eponymous ’71 debut album. Look no further for concrete evidence that sarcasm often cuts deeper when accompanied by heartfelt acoustic guitar (it doesn’t hurt that Prine’s vocalization of his various laments is nearly flawless in its cadence / emotion). What a shame it took my unhealthy man-crush on Luke Skywalker to unearth such beauty.