Recommendations wanted for a vintage half hour western

I’ve been enjoying a lot of the shorter vintage John Wayne b-movies from the 1930s and 1940s lately, and I’m wondering if there are any TV western shows, preferably half hour ones, that you could recommend that might have a similar feel. Maybe something from the 1950s? And preferably on DVD or Blu-ray so I can just order a copy without too much fuss.

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Kevin Collins

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  1. STORIES OF THE CENTURY with Jim Davis from Republic Pictures' TV arm comes to mind. As history it's laughable but it's very well done with fast-moving plots and lots of well-integrated stock footage from Republic's western films. Great casts in every installment as well. The best copy seems to be from Nostalgia Family Video but I've owned the Platinum sets titled "Legends of the Old West" for years. Since the show is PD, many episodes are available to watch free on YouTube as well. Here's the Wikipedia overview: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stories_of_the_Century

    Also, TALES OF WELLS FARGO with Dale Robertson is a good one. It ran 5 years as a half-hour show with a format change in its 6th season making it a one hour show.

    My favorite half-hour western is Richard Boone's HAVE GUN – WILL TRAVEL.

  2. I'm a big fan of westerns and I agree with the previous suggestions, esp. "Stories of the Century," an excellent show with great guest stars (Lee Van Cleef as Jesse James, Richard Jaeckel as Billy the Kid, Marie Windsor as Belle Starr, Slim Pickens as the Sundance Kid, etc.) and ample use of action scenes taken from Republic Pictures' westerns. The episode on Colonel Quantrill uses footage from Republic's film about Quantrill, DARK COMMAND (1940), which starred John Wayne and Roy Rogers and was directed by Raoul Walsh.

    An important distinction needs to be made, Josh. You mention liking John Wayne's B-westerns. A lot of the early TV westerns were directed by B-western directors, so they had the kind of economy and attention to action that you got in B-westerns. These shows include: The Lone Ranger, The Cisco Kid, The Gene Autry Show, The Roy Rogers Show, Range Rider, Buffalo Bill Jr., The Adventures of Kit Carson, The Adventures of Jim Bowie and many more.

    Later TV westerns were more focused on drama and, sometimes, social issues and may have had more substantial scripts but were often infinitely talkier. This was esp. true of hour-long westerns like Wagon Train, Bonanza, and Gunsmoke (after it had expanded to an hour). Some good half-hour westerns from this period that managed to strike, for me, the best balance were The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, starring Hugh O'Brian, Tales of Wells Fargo, starring Dale Robertson, and Lawman, starring John Russell, as well as the aforementioned Have Gun Will Travel, starring Richard Boone, and Wanted Dead or Alive, starring Steve McQueen. Tales of Wells Fargo featured five future members of the cast of THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1960) as guest stars: McQueen, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Robert Vaughn and Brad Dexter. One of the final episodes of The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp featured the most accurate screen dramatization of the gunfight at the O.K. Corral ever.

    Encore Western currently runs a lot of TV westerns on weekday afternoons from 2PM to 8PM. It's a great lineup. I watch Tales of Wells Fargo and Lawman on many afternoons. They also run Death Valley Days, which was the longest-running half-hour TV western (1952-1970). I wrote up this series on my blog:

    https://briandanacamp.wordpress.com/2017/04/21/classic-tv-westerns-death-valley-days/

    If you're looking for a good place to start, try this box set. The quality varies from acceptable to awful, but it's a good way to sample several different early TV westerns:

    [​IMG]

  3. I agree, early 50s TV westerns are the best action and stunt wise. Especially, The Range Rider. Mill Creek had four of those 150 episode sets and reissued them often, with different cover art, and also in 300 episode editions. Mostly half-hour shows but some hour long ones too.
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    The set titled, Western TV Classics-150 Episodes has multiple episodes, each, of , Buffalo Bill, Jr.-11, The Cisco Kid-22, The Range Rider-12, The Roy Rogers Show-15, Stories of the Century-21, and other shows.
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    Bat Masterson, Tombstone Territory, and Yancy Derringer are lots of fun.
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    I think the only half-hour western on Blu-Ray is, The Californians, available as a CBS-Mod, exclusive from Amazon/Create Space. It's a good enough show but kind of set bound.
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  4. Can't go wrong with most 1950s/ 1960s half-hour TV westerns, Josh! Have Gun- Will Travel (pound for pound one of the best western series ever made), The Rifleman, Wanted: Dead or Alive, The Texan, Bat Masterson, The Rebel, Tate, Yancy Derringer (lots of great action in this one, though it's more of an "Eastern"), Lawman, etc. Plus the earlier ones that Brian and Bob mentioned (The Lone Ranger, The Cisco Kid, et al).

    Let us know which one(s) you decide on and what you think of it.

  5. Have Gun – Will Travel stands above everything else, imho. The Rifleman is a fine choice as well. There are many great half-hour westerns, a number of which have already been mentioned, so I won’t repeat them. But trust me, HGWT is the very best of them all.

    Gary “no other genre is as beloved by me as the half-hour western” O.

  6. Guys, this is all wonderful, and thank you for the suggestions.

    I’d also like to amend my original post to say that if you’d like to recommend your personal favorite half hour western series (as opppsed to just ones that like the John Wayne b-movies), I’m all ears.

  7. If you're looking for a great half-hour Western I think Gunsmoke is the best, though HGWT comes a close second.

    And I think the parallels to John Wayne would make Gunsmoke a great choice. James Arness as Matt Dillon can do so much with a look, a sigh, a pause. Even when he doesn't speak, you know he means business, He gives the bad guys just enough rope to do themselves in. And when he does speak, you listen. To me, that perfectly describes the best John Wayne westerns as well.

    All 20 seasons of Gunsmoke are great, but the first six seasons at a half hour each are the best because Marshall Dillon is always in the middle of the action. No matter the storms that rage around him, you always know he will work it out in the end.

  8. GMBurns

    If you're looking for a great half-hour Western I think Gunsmoke is the best, though HGWT comes a close second.

    And I think the parallels to John Wayne would make Gunsmoke a great choice. James Arness as Matt Dillon can do so much with a look, a sigh, a pause. Even when he doesn't speak, you know he means business, He gives the bad guys just enough rope to do themselves in. And when he does speak, you listen. To me, that perfectly describes the best John Wayne westerns as well.

    All 20 seasons of Gunsmoke are great, but the first six seasons at a half hour each are the best because Marshall Dillon is always in the middle of the action. No matter the storms that rage around him, you always know he will work it out in the end.

    I like the hour long seasons (mainly season 12-end of run) the best. But I agree that Gunsmoke in the half hour format is probably the best of the bunch of
    western TV series.

  9. I'm most intrigued by Gunsmoke and Have Gun Will Travel, so I will probably look to see if I can find a pilot for each to stream, and then make a decision based on that. And at some point I'll try to sample everything else that's been recommended too!

    I've spent the last few years working my way through the original Adventures Of Superman, M*A*S*H and one or two other half hour shows, and I'm just a couple episodes away from wrapping them all up. I've really enjoyed having something from that era as my last "before bed" watch and I'm thinking either or both of these western shows will fit perfectly in that old slot.

  10. Mark-P

    Really? No one's going to suggest The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp? The entire show has now been released on DVD however the season sets are extremely pricey.

    I mentioned The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp in Post #4.

  11. Josh Steinberg

    I'm most intrigued by Gunsmoke and Have Gun Will Travel, so I will probably look to see if I can find a pilot for each to stream, and then make a decision based on that. And at some point I'll try to sample everything else that's been recommended too!

    Don't think you can go wrong with either of those two picks, Josh! Gunsmoke was a half-hour show for its first 6 seasons. While it's not my personal favorite western, it is undeniably a quality show all the way round. There's a S1 – S4 DVD collection that's going for $45 on Amazon right now. That would set you up for some good pre-bed viewing for a long while.

    Ditto Have Gun – Will Travel…all 6 seasons (225 episodes) can be had for $48. It's a show that stays consistently good throughout its entire run.

    It might help to decide what kind of format you prefer, one focusing on a single male character who travels around the country (HG – WT) or one based around an ensemble of characters who mostly stay in one place (Gunsmoke). If you like a lot of exterior location filming, HG- WT is the best choice. Gunsmoke does sometimes get out on location, but is more of a set-bound show. Dennis Weaver is a real scene-stealer in that series, though. Hmm…better just get 'em both!

  12. Josh Steinberg

    Guys, this is all wonderful, and thank you for the suggestions.

    I’d also like to amend my original post to say that if you’d like to recommend your personal favorite half hour western series (as opppsed to just ones that like the John Wayne b-movies), I’m all ears.

    Have Gun Will Travel or The Rifleman are great shows and are among my favorite western series growing up. Also, Wanted Dead or Alive is another one.

  13. Jeff Flugel

    Don't think you can go wrong with either of those two picks, Josh! Gunsmoke was a half-hour show for its first 6 seasons. While it's not my personal favorite western, it is undeniably a quality show all the way round. There's a S1 – S4 DVD collection that's going for $45 on Amazon right now. That would set you up for some good pre-bed viewing for a long while.

    Ditto Have Gun – Will Travel…all 6 seasons (225 episodes) can be had for $48. Its a show that stays consistently good throughout its entire run.

    It might help to decide what kind of format you prefer, one focusing on a single male character who travels around the country (HG – WT) or one based around an ensemble of characters who mostly stay in one place (Gunsmoke). If you like a lot of exterior location filming, HG- WT is the best choice. Gunsmoke does sometimes get out on location, but is more of a set-bound show. Dennis Weaver is a real scene-stealer in that series, though. Hmm…better just get 'em both!

    Thanks for a wonderful breakdown of the two shows – I think I’m sold on both based on the descriptions and price. Might be nice to alternate both. Will do some further research but this is wonderful!

  14. GMBurns

    If you're looking for a great half-hour Western I think Gunsmoke is the best, though HGWT comes a close second.

    And I think the parallels to John Wayne would make Gunsmoke a great choice. James Arness as Matt Dillon can do so much with a look, a sigh, a pause. Even when he doesn't speak, you know he means business, He gives the bad guys just enough rope to do themselves in. And when he does speak, you listen. To me, that perfectly describes the best John Wayne westerns as well.

    All 20 seasons of Gunsmoke are great, but the first six seasons at a half hour each are the best because Marshall Dillon is always in the middle of the action. No matter the storms that rage around him, you always know he will work it out in the end.

    I didn't watch the first six seasons of Gunsmoke as it was a little before my time. When I started watching it was an hour long show. By that time, I was into Wagon Train, Rawhide and Bonanza. I do have the first seven seasons on DVD. I've never watched any of them so perhaps I'll give the first six seasons a chance to see if that half hour format is more to my liking.:)

  15. Robert Crawford

    I was never a big fan of Gunsmoke. I'll watch it, but I wasn't a devoted fan in which I watch it every week.

    Really? The color seasons (I'm on 14 now) are like someone else mentioned in another thread like 50 minute Western movies. The remastered DVD's are fantastic.

  16. Jeff Flugel

    If you like a lot of exterior location filming, HG- WT is the best choice.

    You hit on one of the primary reasons HGWT trumps Gunsmoke for me. The location work is spectacular! Love the scenery in many of the episodes. And while I really do enjoy James Arness, I think Richard Boone is just a tad better. So his series wins out in my book.

    Gary “long live Paladin” O.

  17. Bryan^H

    Really? The color seasons (I'm on 14 now) are like someone else mentioned in another thread like 50 minute Western movies. The remastered DVD's are fantastic.

    Really, I never cared for Gunsmoke when I watched it back in the 1960s and and 1970s. I watched the first two episodes of the first season tonight and they were fine.

  18. Gary OS

    You hit on one of the primary reasons HGWT trumps Gunsmoke for me. The location work is spectacular! Love the scenery in many of the episodes. And while I really do enjoy James Arness, I think Richard Boone is just a tad better. So his series wins out in my book.

    Gary “long live Paladin” O.

    Same for me.

  19. Robert Crawford

    Really, I never cared for Gunsmoke when I watched it back in the 1960s and and 1970s. I watched the first two episodes of the first season tonight and they were fine.

    Robert, I think Gunsmoke actually holds up better today than when it originally aired. I’m a bit too young to have seen it during its original run, but when I tried watching it in the ‘80s I didn’t care for it as I was a big fan of The Big Valley at that time. But when I started watching Gunsmoke when the DVD seasons began coming out I fell in love with the show and now I think it’s up there with the best TV Westerns (granted I haven’t seen seasons 14-20 yet).

  20. You've already received many fine suggestions for reliably entertaining, if not outright great, half hour western series…Gunsmoke and Have Gun Will Travel are both two of the prestige "Adult" TV westerns of that era, often sophisticated, literate (especially HGWT) and surprisingly grim, and representing some of the best network television drama of the '50s and '60s. The short run (13 eps.) The Westerner is another gem. Same with Tate…For a lighter, comedic half hour 'western', you can't do better than the superb Yancy Derringer with the great Jock Mahoney. It strongly reminds me of the great, early seasons of Maverick.

    For shows most reminiscent of the Republic/Monogram B western template, perhaps Lone Ranger, Cisco Kid and others already mentioned.

    I also have a strong affinity for the great ZIV produced half hour westerns…Cisco Kid, Bat Masterson, Tombstone Territory and Mckenzie's Raiders are all available on DVD. Bat Masterson (from TGG) and Tombstone Territory (from TMG/Shout!) have been remastered, surprisingly, to the impeccable standards of the CBS sets…I took these screen caps from the Tombstone Territory set, from the first season episode, "Rose of the Rio Bravo" guest starring a very sexy and evil Kathy Nolan (The Real McCoys) and a young and gullible pre- Bonanza Michael Landon…
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  21. "Have Gun Will Travel" had a great Season 2 episode, "The Moor's Revenge," with Vincent Price as a Shakespearean actor stopping in San Diego, where Paladin happens to be. Patricia Morison (who died last year at the age of 103!), a Broadway star and B-movie actress, played Price's wife and acting partner. They perform "Othello."

    There was also a Season 4 episode, "Fogg Bound," featuring Phileas Fogg, the lead character in "Around the World in 80 Days," passing through town and requiring Paladin to help him on his way.

    I recently watched a Season One episode, "Hey Boy's Revenge," about justice for Chinese railroad workers, featuring Kam Tong, Lisa Lu and Philip Ahn, with Bonanza's Pernell Roberts as the villain. "Gunsmoke" has a Season 1 episode like that, "The Queue," with Keye Luke.

  22. Josh Steinberg

    So, I watched the first episodes of Gunsmoke and Have Gun Will Travel last night, and I enjoyed both! I think I liked the Have Gun pilot ever so slightly more, but it was close.

    Josh, if you preferred (even slightly) the HGWT pilot over the Gunsmoke pilot you should know that “Matt Gets It” was a very highly rated episode for that 1st season. For me it is right at the top. But on the other hand, “Three Bells to Perdido” doesn’t even begin to approach the top episodes of that first season of HGTW. There are far better Paladin stories to come as you continue with that initial season. Of course, everyone’s mileage may vary but I stand firmly by that assessment.

    Gary “no disrespect intended to Gunsmoke” O.

  23. Josh Steinberg

    Does Disney’s 1950s-ish Zorro show count as a western? I just realized that I bought that years ago but still haven’t watched it.

    I saw it as a kid, but never thought of it as a western. More of a swashbuckler. Fox's big-budget THE MARK OF ZORRO (1940), with Tyrone Power, is definitely always classified as a swashbuckler. However, in retrospect, I'm guessing the Disney show probably followed the template of the western more than it did the swashbuckler.

  24. Josh Steinberg

    Does Disney’s 1950s-ish Zorro show count as a western? I just realized that I bought that years ago but still haven’t watched it.

    Zorro is set in the western part of the country, so it maybe, kinda sorta could qualify….

    It is a ton of fun, so watch it anyway. Completely different in tone from Gunsmoke and HGWT, but still a blast.

  25. Of course Zorro is a western. So is Sgt. Preston and Hawkeye. All frontier stories. TV Guide was confused about this. They called some of them Adventures, Dramas, and Westerns.
    View attachment 55203
    The Disney Zorro is an excellent show. Great music by William Lava and fantastic stunts under the direction of the Yakima Canutt family. Zorro was the highest budgeted half-hour show, in 1957, as Disney doubled the ABC licensing fee. Which is tricky accounting since ABC bankrolled Disney Land.
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    Some exciting stunts in this Zorro opening. I think this opening is from the second season or the 1966 syndicated run. The swirling Z in the beginning may have been a bumper from the first season, too, but I don't think it's on the DVDs. It's on one or two of the VHS white clamshell releases.

  26. Robert Crawford

    I didn't watch the first six seasons of Gunsmoke as it was a little before my time. When I started watching it was an hour long show. By that time, I was into Wagon Train, Rawhide and Bonanza. I do have the first seven seasons on DVD. I've never watched any of them so perhaps I'll give the first six seasons a chance to see if that half hour format is more to my liking.:)

    I like the whole series but the 1st 6 seasons were by far the best. I'm pretty sure you will like them and if so you are in for a treat with 233 half hour episodes.

  27. I wanted to mention that I started Zorro last night, and ended up watching the first two episodes – loved it, and don't know why I let it sit on the shelf so long. So I think I'll probably be bouncing back and forth between Zorro and Have Gun to begin with, but I'm going to make sure to keep this thread going so that I can take advantage of all of the great recommendations whenever I have an extra slot to fit something into.

  28. Josh, definitely keep returning to this thread because you know the old saying, "A bad vintage half hour western is better than a good ________ (fill in the blank) any day".

    Enjoy Zorro, HGWT, and whatever else you venture into.

  29. morasp

    Whispering Smith was a short lived 26 episode western starring Audie Murphy that's worth checking out.

    That was a nice western. Definitely recommended if you look for other similar series after Zorro & HGWT.

    Gary “Whispering Smith often flies under most people’s radar” O.

  30. Josh Steinberg

    Four episodes into Zorro, and I'm loving it.

    My set of Have Gun arrived damaged from Amazon, so it'll be a few more days before the replacement shows up.

    Sorry to hear about the HGWT set. Hopefully Amazon gets the replacement set to you undamaged. On the other hand it’s great to hear you are enjoying Zorro!

    Gary “Guy Williams was made for that role” O.

  31. Thanks Gary!

    I probably could have salvaged HGWT but it’s got 35 discs in there and the hub was broken – I didn’t really want 35 floaters in my collection! But the replacement has shipped and is due tomorrow or Saturday so I’ll be on my way soon.

    And you’re right – Guy Williams is fantastic as Zorro.

  32. I'm late to the game .
    My own favorites?:
    Have Gun Will Travel,
    Gunsmoke ,
    Wagon Train ,
    Bonanza,
    The 5 Davy Crockett episodes from "Disneyland" Tv show,
    Yancy Derringer,
    Cheyenne,
    The Texan,
    Restless Gun,
    You can't go wrong with any of these.
    I own all of them plus many more on DVD – in fact just about every season of every TV western released on DVD so far !

  33. Josh Steinberg

    Thanks Gary!

    I probably could have salvaged HGWT but it’s got 35 discs in there and the hub was broken – I didn’t really want 35 floaters in my collection! But the replacement has shipped and is due tomorrow or Saturday so I’ll be on my way soon.

    And you’re right – Guy Williams is fantastic as Zorro.

    I envy you your Zorro set, Josh…I waited too long and missed my chance to pick up the now OOP and very expensive Walt Disney Treasure season 1 and 2 sets. I was not a fan of the Disney Zorro growing up (preferring Tyrone Power in The Mark of Zorro) but I'm sure I'd very much enjoy it now.

    Good to hear that a replacement HG – WT set is on its way to you. Floaters seem to be a particular problem with those multi-hub complete series sets.

  34. I only have Zorro S1. I’m gonna have to pay through the nose for S2…and since it’s the only Disney Treasures set that I’m missing, I will. I’ll be really annoyed with myself for doing it, but that won’t stop me 😀

  35. Richard V

    Has anyone mentioned The Westerner? Members have gone crazy for this western in other threads.

    I like The Westerner as well as these that were syndicated as part of a package in the 80's: Johnny Ringo, Black Saddle, and Law of the Plainsman. All had strong lead actors. I'd pick up any of these in heartbeat.

  36. Josh Steinberg

    Looks like I’ve got the next decade mapped out… 😀

    Josh, there's no doubt in my mind that the half-hour western genre offers more quality programming than any other (with only sitcoms possibly topping it). The 50's and 60's were the great era for those shows. There really are enough quality western series to watch for a lifetime. And that's not even expanding to hour-long shows.

    Gary "if you ever want to go that route, Rawhide is the undisputed champion in my book" O.

  37. Other favorites for me would include, but not be limited to:
    Fury
    Jim Bowie
    Tombstone Territory
    Stoney Burke
    Yancy Derringer
    The Dakotas
    Restless Gun
    Whispering Smith
    Trackdown

    Gray Ghost (sadly no official releases for those last two)

    Gary “really thankful for my westerns library” O.

  38. Josh, thanks for this thread as I have now finally picked up the Have Gun – Will Travel Complete Series set today from WalMart. Have watched the first three episodes and am enjoying it immensely. Thanks again for the gentle prodding. I have been on the fence about this one for almost a year.

  39. Josh, thanks for this thread as I have now finally picked up the Have Gun – Will Travel Complete Series set today from WalMart. Have watched the first three episodes and am enjoying it immensely. Thanks again for the gentle prodding. I have been on the fence about this one for almost a year.

  40. Doug Wallen

    Josh, thanks for this thread as I have now finally picked up the Have Gun – Will Travel Complete Series set today from WalMart. Have watched the first three episodes and am enjoying it immensely. Thanks again for the gentle prodding. I have been on the fence about this one for almost a year.

    It's consistently good throughout it's run.

  41. There’s really something to be said for the 30 minute show. Nowadays, it seems only comedies and kids shows fit into a half hour slot, but I love seeing the shorter format used for dramas, adventures, etc. The Twilight Zone works better for me than Outer Limits, and there are probably lots of reasons for that, but the length is part of it for me – those TZ episodes pack a powerful punch into a small space and it makes it all the more meaningful.

    The Zorros and the Have Guns that I’ve watched so far all do a great job at telling an involving and thrilling story in just half an hour.

  42. Josh Steinberg

    Looks like I’ve got the next decade mapped out… 😀

    Josh, just to push it out to 11 years of watching, here are two more half hour westerns I'd highly recommend.

    Zane Grey Theater, an anthology like Death Valley Days. Zane Grey is a notch or two better than Death Valley Days, with higher echelon guest stars.

    The Loner, with Lloyd Bridges, is also excellent. The scripts are very literate and Bridges is a delight to watch.

    Enjoy!

  43. I have watched some of Tales of Wells Fargo off the Encore Western Channel and I highly recommend this show. The Episodes I have watched are Very Good. Dale Robertson gives A Great Performance and he is a very strong and charismatic Leading Man.

    Take Care!

    Robert

    QUOTE="Josh Steinberg, post: 4702144, member: 304502"]Kevin Collins submitted a new blog post

    Recommendations wanted for a vintage half hour western
    [​IMG]

    Continue reading the Original Blog Post.

  44. So when a thread is picked for the Popular Thread, on the front page, why doesn't the original poster's name show? And when reading from the front page, why do some photos show as clickable links? And why do YouTube videos not show at all?

    And that picture chosen to illustrate the topic is not from a TV Western. It is from a 1942 World War II movie called "Reunion In France", with John Wayne and Joan Crawford.

  45. BobO’Link

    The Guns of Will Sonnett is a vehicle for Walter Brennan. He's a former Army scout who, with his grandson, searches the west for the his son, a gunfighter on the run. It's a short run, 2 seasons, late 60s effort. Unfortunately the DVDs are the syndicated edits but it's worth watching anyway.

    I guess that when a show's as good as that was, you take what you can get– that must be what you mean.

  46. I think there's just something innately masculine (and American) about enjoying and appreciating good westerns. Or course the ladies can enjoy them too 🙂

    I think it was mentioned briefly a couple of times but if you like Brian Keith as I do then you'll really like The Westerner. Short series though. Among the somewhat more kiddie-fied TV B westerns (Gene Autry shows, Roy Rogers, etc) I find Hopalong Cassidy to be a guilty pleasure, but I like the earlier theatrical films a lot too – I just like William Boyd. Zorro is a different flavor of western that really gives a fun and authentic feel for Spanish Old California – and Henry Calvin as Sgt. Garcia is easily my favorite character. And so many other great recommendations here. The 1950s to very early 1960s was the golden age for these shorter format TV westerns before they grew up and got a little more serious and became hour long dramas in the 60s and 70s. Not that the shorter programs didn't have plenty of very serious moments.

    Oh and I'll just mention that the short form half hour western drama probably started on radio, and in fact some shows came directly from there, Gunsmoke in particular. If you included the radio years then you could probably say The Simpsons still hasn't beaten Gunsmoke's record yet.

  47. I’m making my way through Zorro now – it’s addictive. I’m already at something like episode 32 (out of 39 first season episodes).

    Have Gun is moving along more slowly but I’m totally digging it. And after I finish Zorro and maybe get a little further into Have Gun, I’ll start sampling some of the shorter run shows that have been recommended here.

  48. One recollection about Zorro. When I was a kid in the early-mid 80s I remember one of the local broadcasters had a weekday hour long package of The Lone Ranger and Zorro, after some morning cartoons probably. It was an interesting, even somewhat obvious but infrequent juxtaposition of the two most famous masked heroes, one on a white horse, the other (usually) on a black stallion. The Lone Ranger in white(-ish) with his six shooters and silver bullets, and Zorro in black with his cape, sword and whip. I was young enough that the cultural differences, and the fact that Zorro was more polished with higher production values, was lost on me, but at the very least that pairing cemented Zorro in my mind as a sort of western. When I was a little older I still enjoyed watching it on the Disney Channel in the late 90s until the last vestiges of the old DC were eliminated circa 2002. I was sure to preorder the two WDT season sets 10 years ago when they were released and enjoy them to this day.

  49. Not to make this the "Zorro" thread, but if you like B westerns and if you like Zorro, there is the somewhat related world of old cliffhanger movie serials, western-themed serials in particular. Republic Pictures and others made a ton of them. I think 3 or 4 of them, all from Republic, were Zorro themed. But only one, Zorro's Fighting Legion, was based on the original central character of Don Diego/Zorro, this time fighting for justice down in Old Mexico. It's probably the best of the bunch. There was also Zorro Rides Again, basically a western serial about a descendant of Zorro, and Zorro's Black Whip, about a female heroine (The Black Whip) inspired by Zorro in Idaho, and Son of Zorro, a post-Civil War western serial about a descendant of Zorro, and finally Ghost of Zorro, starring Clayton Moore the Lone Ranger himself as the grandson of Zorro in another post Civil War western serial.

    But as to serials in general they share a lot in common with B Westerns, especially when they are western themed themselves. Characters are fairly 2 dimensional, which has it's own strange charm sometimes, and they are high on knock-about action, horse riding, stunts and cliffhanger endings. They are basically long melodramatic chapter plays in bite-sized chunks. Republic, which made a lot of the B westerns, was the most prolific producer of serials also.

    Last bit about Zorro, there was a newer Zorro series on the Family Channel in the early 1990s. It had 4 seasons and 88 episodes. Although the star Duncan Regehr was no Guy Williams it was a well regarded and popular adaptation. I'd long forgotten about it, but remember it being decent enough. Apparently the full series was released on DVD a few years back, but it is probably out of print and somewhat pricey now. It's in color of course, but the Disney series was available for years as a set of about 10 individual discs from the Disney Movie club. I think I had collected all of these at one point, although I'm sure they're pricey now, but the thing about them is that they are the 1980s colorized version of the show for the old Disney Channel, which is both interesting and terrible.

    Obviously I like old western series so I'll ramble a bit more. Since a couple others brought up their favorite long form western shows, I'll just mention another offbeat "western" with a Disney connection is the series Daniel Boone, 1964-1970. Fess Parker stars and basically reprises a more subdued version of his popular Davey Crockett persona from the successful series of Disney TV features in the 1950s (the one that caused the Davey Crockett coonskin cap craze amongst baby boomers at the time). The show is very much in the mold of other contemporary longer form western dramas, more cerebral and oriented toward social conflict. It is both historically based and yet full of historical inaccuracies and anachronisms. I think historians will say that Daniel Boone never wore a coonskin hat, but obviously there was some banking on the success of Parker's Davy Crockett. Overall it's a really good show though. And it's popular enough that I think it has been licensed and released in season box sets at least 2 or 3 different times.

  50. There were two more, Zorro like, Republic western serials that used the Black Whip costume design. They starred Ken 'Festus' Curtis, in 'Don Daredevil Rides Again' and Dick 'Sgt. Preston' Simmons, as "The Man With The Steel Whip".
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    Republic's first color feature movie was also a Zorro movie, "The Bold Caballero"-1936. It's the first Zorro movie in color and with sound. It was actually restored and released by Republic Home Video on VHS in 1998. I thought it would have shown up on disc by now, from Olive or Kino. (There are lesser versions out there, also.)
    View attachment 55946

    I had not really watched DANIEL BOONE, originally, and caught up with the show on DVD. I enjoyed it very much, and hope I can find time to watch it again. I liked the way it had a sort of floating continuity. Episodes were set pre, post, and during the American Revolution, in no particular order. Talk about non-linear story telling. They expected the audience to get it, or not care about exact continuity.

  51. I did not know about those two "Black Whip" serials. It looks as if they tried to find actors to fit into Linda Stirling's same jacket and hat. Had not heard of the Bold Caballero either, too bad it's not on a good disc release. I do know of course about the Douglas Fairbanks and Tyrone Power Zorro films.

  52. With Daniel Boone being set in and around Kentucky, today it's one of those odd states where people wonder if it isn't sort of a Southen state. But in reality I think some residents would tell you it is a Western state, because when Boone was helping to explore and open up that territory it was in fact America's Western frontier. So in that sense I guess Daniel Boone is a "western", just not "The Old West". But just from the standpoint of production value, character types, guest actors, types of stories, etc, it fits in well with most of the other 60s western dramas. Plenty of horses and guns.

  53. Couple more thoughts on TV Westerns….

    One more great Western series from the end of the hour-long drama era, I don't think anybody mentioned The High Chaparral (1967-71). This was a great show from the same producers as Bonanza, although it has a different feel. The show has interesting characters like "Big John" Cannon (Leif Erickson), his brother Buck and son "Blue Boy", as well as a story arc of conflict and coexistence between the Cannon family and their ranch, proud wealthy Mexican rancheros, and native American tribes. It hasn't had as much airing over the years, although I think it recently has aired on some of the OTA re-run diginet channels (Cozi TV maybe?). I had to resort to getting a PAL release of the complete series a few years ago, but starting last year Shout is finally releasing it in the US on DVD, and fairly affordably too.

    Most of the great old color western series like Bonanza limped or staggered their way into the early 1970s. When Dan Blocker suddenly died I think David Canary's character Candy had to shoulder more of the weight for the final Bonanza episodes that had previously been shifted to "Hoss" already in later years anyway. Boone featured Jimmy Dean's character Josh Clements for several episodes later in its run. Many other series had long gone off the air. Only Gunsmoke kind of stood strong in ratings to the end of production in 1975 when it was suddenly cancelled. I suppose they did try a few more innovative western series in the 70s, like Alias Smith & Jones, which still ended before Gunsmoke did. Also Kung Fu, another imaginative series. Westerns on TV were never quite the same in style or number, but there were still some good programs. Grizzly Adams is fondly remembered from that era, even though it roughly fits the period but is a completely different type of program. Little House On The Prairie had it's long run, but that was less western and more "pioneer". In the 80s and 90s you maybe had a few prime time "western" series, but they were MUCH more domesticated. I'm thinking Guns of Paradise and Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. But a few newer takes on the old western format did come about, like The Young Riders. Fortunately we can still relive most of the good ones on DVD.

  54. Didn't see this mentioned, so if it was i'm sorry . I just picked up The original Lone Ranger season one and two set at Walmart. Put out by Universal with season one 52 episodes on 8 discs and season two 26 episodes on 4 discs. Discs are single sided. Haven't watched them yet so not sure of quality . But for $20 it was a must for me . Nice little packaged set.

  55. borisfw

    Didn't see this mentioned, so if it was i'm sorry . I just picked up The original Lone Ranger season one and two set at Walmart. Put out by Universal with season one 52 episodes on 8 discs and season two 26 episodes on 4 discs. Discs are single sided. Haven't watched them yet so not sure of quality . But for $20 it was a must for me . Nice little packaged set.

    I had not seen or heard of these? Certainly not from Universal although I guess it makes sense. I had the old 75th Anniversary set from Classic Media but missed out on the "complete" Collector's Edition. Wonder if these new ones correct any of the issues with edits, although probably not.

  56. borisfw

    Five of the six episodes on the first disc of season one were over 25 min long. the fifth episode i believe was 22 + min . The picture look pretty nice.

    That's great to hear about five of the episodes on that first disc being 25 min.+: looks like you're getting a lot out of it!

  57. BobO’Link

    I, too, missed out on the "Complete" edition (I thought the price would drop but it went OOP instead!) and got the 75th Anniversary set and the 5th season Shout! had released. I'd fully expect that WM set to be the same discs as in the Classic Media sets in better packaging.

    Here's the link to that release at WM. It shows store pickup only but at least shows if local stores have copies.

    I was able to pick up the last copy of this "exclusive" at a local Walmart today. There are 12 discs here, same as the 75th anniversary set. Although it is labelled a Universal (UPHE) release it still has a Classic Media copyright in the fine print. When playing the disc there is a Dreamworks Classics splash screen and a fun if basic little menu with the Lone Ranger intro playing within an old television set. The episodes are distributed across discs in exactly the same way at the 75th anniversary set, and in fact appear to have the exact same running times. They would appear to include any edits already present in the intros or episodes on the older release. The episodes are also formatted as individual "chapters" within a ~2hour 15 minute video stream – no chapter markers within individual episodes – this is the same as the old CM set. For $25 I took a chance, but this does appear to be exactly the contents of the 75th anniversary set from Classic Media several years ago, which included the 78 episodes from the first 2 seasons, many of the best of the series. Just as with the original collection there are no extras. This is a good way to get a lot of the best and earliest episodes of the series, especially considering how expensive the 75th Anniversary Collection was when it was first released and how ridiculously priced it is used. But if you have the 75th anniversary or the complete collections then you needn't bother with this one.

  58. Bradskey

    The episodes are distributed across discs in exactly the same way as on the 75th anniversary set, and in fact appear to have the exact same running times. They would appear to include any edits already present in the intros or episodes on the older release. The episodes are also formatted as individual "chapters" within a ~2hour 15 minute video stream – no chapter markers within individual episodes – this is the same as the old CM set.

    Thanks for checking on this. I have the 75th Anniversary series release, and those discs were authored exactly the same: one 2-hour 15 min video stream on the disc, not broken up into individual episode files. This made it a challenge when trying to rip my discs’ files onto a backup drive.

    If I recall, only the first few episodes were uncut (disc 1). The rest clocked in around 22-23 mins each.

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