Cannon TV has been forced to shut down the Chuck Norris action series “Walker , Texas Ranger” part way into production because the company was unable to cover production deficits on the show.

Cannon Pictures prexy Chris Pearce issued a memo to the show’s staff April 8 notifying them that the company “has been forced to suspend production” on the CBS series, citing a delay in bank financing that was to have covered its deficits “despite all reasonable efforts on the part of Cannon” to secure that funding.

The memo said Cannon is seeking alternative funding in the hope of resuming production but that it’s “very difficult for Cannon Television Inc. to quantify the timetable for recommencement of production at this moment.”

Pearce, who couldn’t be reached, added in the memo that CBS had provided the company sufficient funds to complete production on the first four hours of what was to have been a 13-episode order.

“Walker” has been filming in Irving, Texas, and is scheduled to premiere with a two-hour episode April 21, followed by a regular series berth Saturdays at 10 p.m. starting April 24. At this point, the final airing will be the following Saturday, May 1.

Norris was to have had substantial profit participation in the show, his first foray into prime time series. He plays a modern-day Texas ranger, with Clarence Gilyard and Sheree J. Wilson co-starring and David Moessinger exec producer.

CBS officials were unavailable for comment but can’t be thrilled about the news, having heavily promoted the show during the NCAA basketball tournament — a good platform to reach the male viewers that will likely be its primary audience. The web put in a pitch for “Walker” as well at its development presentation to media buyers last month along with other spring series.

The shutdown of “Walker” underscores limitations facing small and mid-sized companies in network TV, where a one-hour prime time drama can routinely amass deficits of $ 300,000 per hour or more. That’s one reason indies have largely been kept out of the series business, unless they’re producing low-budget reality fare or have the backing of a network or studio.

Cannon has long been plagued by financial troubles but announced in January that it had completed a yearlong effort to secure new financing and was preparing to release a slate of films this year.

The company cited a $ 15 million bank facility from a group of lenders, led by Amsterdam’s ING Bank, that would allow for the domestic distribution of five completed movies (Daily Variety, Jan. 5).

Cannon’s involvement was something of a surprise when CBS announced its series deal with Norris, since the company didn’t have a separate TV division or any other active projects for the small screen; however, Cannon had produced several features starring the former karate champ.

Pearce, who headed production at Cannon under Yoram Globus and Menahem Golan, agreed to buy out Pathe Communications’ majority stake in Cannon in November 1990.