Looking back on `The Lone Ranger' TV series as an adult is a strange experience. Watching episodes through an adult's eyes alerted me to flaws I didn't notice when I was a kid: the acting was sometimes on the B-movie level. The stories tended to be repetitive and simplistic. The Native Americans were generally played by Caucasian or Hispanic or Italian-American actors. The `outdoor' exteriors in a lot of episodes were obviously indoor sets. But there is a spirit and an energy to the show that you can't deny.
Most of the credit for the show's success goes to its leads, Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels. They became the Lone Ranger and Tonto, lived the roles as no other actors before or since. Moore, in particular, knew the Ranger was presented as a hero and an example to children, and from what I've heard, he tried his best to live up to that. He made the Ranger a fair and just man, someone who didn't judge, who gave people the benefit of the doubt, but acted correctly when the time was right. He used violence only as a last resort. He was a symbol of honor and integrity, the kind of person I wish I could be.
As for Tonto... It occurs to me nowadays how great an actor Jay Silverheels was. Critics of the show always want to use Tonto as the stereotypical ignorant savage, but you have to look at all the things Tonto does. Tonto tracks, takes care of the Ranger when he's wounded, spies out information - you can tell from the expressions on Silverheels' face that there's a lot more going on inside Tonto's head than he lets on. Don't let the broken English fool you!
The thing that really impresses me about `The Lone Ranger' now is how much of a partnership these two characters have. Tonto is not the Ranger's subordinate - they are friends, equals in their adventures. That, as much as any lesson taught in any episode, is what draws me back to the series after so many years: a tried and true friendship.
Oh, if only the Lone Ranger could ride again.