I never watched NICHOLS when it was on new. It was opposite the latter part of ABC's Tuesday MOVIE OF THE WEEK and that was a golden age for TV movies so we usually watched those, especially since it was also opposite the beginning of MARCUS WELBY, MD, one of my mother's favorite series. I liked James Garner though, from barely remembered MAVERICK episodes and a few movies. Over the years, I wished I had watched NICHOL, especially when he himself said it was probably his favorite of all his series.
With his recent passing, I've finally begun to watch episodes and while I'm enjoying it immensely, I can see why it failed. One week, it's a drama, the next a sitcom. One week, Nichols is a reluctant hero, the next he's attempting an elaborate robbery with a handpicked group of criminal experts. One week co-star John Beck is an antagonist, the next he's comic relief. The only consistent characterization is that of Neva Patterson as the woman who runs the town and her character is given much deeper characterization than she really needs (although so much fun to watch!)
NICHOLS was also the place where Garner put together the crew who would follow him into THE ROCKFORD FILES, his infinitely superior next series. But NICHOLS can't just be written off because, taken on their own, the episodes I've seen thus far have been wonderful fun!
R.I.P. James Garner