My grandfather got me hooked on the television show “Gunsmoke” which ran from 1955 to 1975 on CBS and still holds the record for longest-running TV series in regards to number of episodes.
It was the story of Dodge City, Kansas during the days of the wild, wild West. U.S. Marshal Matt Dillon (James Arness) kept law and order. Kitty Russell (Amanda Blake) ran the Long Branch Saloon and Doc (Milburn Stone) was the town physician.
Now I’ve seen a few episodes made before 1965, but I’m more familiar with the ones that ran from 1966 to 1975 which are the ones primarily shown on TV today.
So I grew up with Festus (Ken Curtis) as Dillon’s main deputy and sidekick instead of Chester (Dennis Weaver), who was on the show from 1955-1964. And I saw the episodes with Newly O’Brien (Buck Taylor), who was the town’s gunsmith and another deputy.
Like “Bonanza” , “Gunsmoke” was a highly fictionalized account of the old West. But if I had to choose which one was the best, I would have to go with “Gunsmoke.”
The main reason is something I call sustained dramatic tension.”Gunsmoke” was better at it. The viewer in the back of his mind knew nothing would happen to the main characters. How many times was Dodge City taken over by the bad guys while Dillon was out of town.
Of course, Dillon would return in the nick of time and have a showdown with the big, bad guy in the street. Dillon would always draw his gun first and prevail. But you still got nervous. And that’s good dramatic television.
My folks tell me that one of my grandfather’s biggest thrills in life was meeting one or all of the cast members of “Gunsmoke” at a tradeshow or convention. My Dad and Mom said he talked about the characters like they were family.
And that was another strength of the show, you tuned in each week to watch good friends. I think that is one of the appeals of “NCIS.”
The first nine seasons of “Gunsmoke” are currently available on DVD and the show can be seen on Me-TV and TV Land.
Until Next Time. . .