Recaps & Reviews

TV Westerns To Binge Watch

In the 1950s and 1960s, you couldn’t turn on the television set without being able to find a western on at least one of the channels. In fact in 1959, the top 4 most popular TV shows were Westerns. People just couldn’t get enough of the genre, and many of them are repeated on TV today. While Westerns may not be as popular today as they were back then, they have been making a comeback, and people have been watching them as a sort of looking glass to the past. Now that you have an extra moment or two to spare, you may want to catch up on some that you may have missed, or remember from years past. Here are our favourites. 

Gunsmoke: You can’t talk about Westerns, without talking about one of the longest running TV series in history. Gunsmoke ran for 20 years (1955-1975), with 635 episodes in total. It starred James Arness as Matt Dillon, the marshal of Dodge City in the 1880s. The show claimed to be the first of a new style of Western, focusing on being as realistic as possible by featuring stories on adult issues such as child abuse and prostitution. Throughout the years some of the cast came and went (including Burt Reynolds at one point), and included a plethora of celebrity guest stars such as Harrison Ford, Jodie Foster, Bette Davis, Kurt Russel and Nick Nolte. The entire series is now available on remastered DVD as well, so it’s easy to get a hold of, and perfect for the moment when you have the time to watch it. 

Deadwood: HBO’s hit Western ran from 2004 – 2006, and won eight Emmys along the way. Those who grew up on the genre didn’t necessarily enjoy it because the lines between the white hats and the black hats were really blurred, even going so far as changing real life characters into something different than they have been historically portrayed. The series follows the happenings of the town of Deadwood, which was pretty much the absolute worst place you’d ever want to visit during the time.  As suddenly as the series appeared though, it vanished, but it did get a revival of sorts in an HBO movie a few years later.

Have Gun, Will Travel: Richard Boone’s gun for hire named Paladin ran from 1957 – 1963. It was a rare series where the good guy wore all black, but make no doubt about it, Paladin was the hero. He traveled across the country, seeking justice for anyone who could afford to pay him, and if the person paying him wasn’t trying to do what was right, Paladin would oppose him instead. It also had one of the most addicting theme songs, popularized by the 1986 film Stand By Me.

Hell On Wheels: AMC got into the Western game in 2011 with this instant hit. Running until 2016, Hell on Wheels centered around telling the story of the construction of the first transcontinental railroad in post-Civil War America. The gritty series was well known for its violence, but even more so for the way it blended fact and fiction in the telling of its tale.

Bonanza: Following the story of the Cartwright family from their Ponderosa in Virginia City, Bonanza was almost as popular as Gunsmoke, yet still ran for 6 years less. Many of the episodes had them defending their Nevada ranch from interlopers, but they also managed to find the time to help out others in their community as well. 

Lonesome Dove: Of all the shows on the list, this 1989 mini-series will be the quickest to watch considering it only has 4 episodes. It’s an adaption of Larry McMurtry’s Pulitzer Prize novel of the same name, and it follows the story of two retired Texas Rangers who journey to Montana on a cattle drive. It stars Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones, and stands the test of time. 

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