My Favorite TV Westerns

Yesterday I posted a list of some of my favorite movie Westerns. Now I’ll turn my attention to television where Westerns used to be a big deal. Here is a list of some of the best.

The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr – This short-lived series earned cult status. Bruce Campbell played a Western bounty hunter battling evil doers. It was a weird little show in which the characters used futuristic weapons and gadgets, but at its heart it was still a Western.

The Big Valley – Before he became The Six Million Dollar Man, Lee Majors starred as Heath Barkley living on a ranch with Linda Evans, Barbara Stanwyck, and the rest of the Barkley brood.

Bonanza – This is probably my favorite TV Western of all time. I remember watching it with my grandmother (may she rest in peace). The adventures of the Cartwright clan (Lorne Greene as Ben, Pernell Roberts as Adam, Dan Blocker as Hoss, and Michael Landon as Little Joe) lasted for an impressive 14 seasons. Every time I hear the theme music, fond memories keep rushing back to me.

Deadwood – This recent show proved that audiences would still tune in to Westerns on television, especially gritty fare like this HBO series. The cast was exceptional: Ian McShane, Timothy Olyphant, Molly Parker, Brad Dourif, and many others. At times extremely brutal, it wasn’t for the squeamish, but the storytelling and the performances were masterful.

Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman – One criticism that the Western genre often gets is that the stories are usually male-centric and that women characters usually fall into stereotypes – the damsel in distress, the town whore, the school marm, the family matriarch who cooks and cleans and does little else. This TV show placed a female doctor in a Western town in the spotlight, following the adventures of Dr. Michaela Quinn, played wonderfully by Jane Seymour.

F Troop – I used to love this comedy about cowboys and Indians set in Fort Courage, starring Forrest Tucker and Larry Storch.

Gunsmoke – The granddaddy of all television Westerns lasted for 20 years. James Arness played Marshall Matt Dillon. I wish it was still on.

Kung Fu – This is another one of my favorites. David Carradine played the role of Caine, a monk who walked the Earth in the West and used his skills in the martial arts in various adventures.

The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams – Dan Haggerty became typecast in his role as an innocent man accused of a crime he didn’t commit, hiding out in the wilderness with a grizzly bear companion.

Little House on the Prairie – At times corny and melodramatic, this was still a very popular, long-running show based loosely on the books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Michael Landon’s storytelling skills are a key reason this show lasted so long and achieved the success it did.

The Lone Ranger – There have been so many incarnations of the story of the masked man riding a horse named Silver and traveling with his Native American friend Tonto, battling evil in the Wild West. One of the most memorable of course (a live-action adaptation of the radio series) is the television show starring Clayton Moore.

Lonesome Dove – The franchise included various mini-series and television movies, and starred a great cast including Robert Duvall, Tommy Lee Jones, Danny Glover, Diane Lane, Robert Urich, D.B. Sweeney, Ricky Schroder, Anjelica Huston, and many others.

Maverick – James Garner played the beloved Western gambler and his appearance in the movie adaptation starring Mel Gibson and Jodie Foster was the only redeeming grace to an otherwise sad attempt to recapture the fun of the original television series.

Rawhide – Who knew that a TV series about a cattle drive could be so entertaining? Having Clint Eastwood as the lead certainly helped.

The Rifleman – Don’t mess with Chuck Connors and his semi-automatic Winchester rifle!

Wanted: Dead or Alive – Steve McQueen starred as Josh Randall in another great Western from the heyday of the genre.

The Wild, Wild West – Please forget the terrible movie remake with Will Smith, Kevin Kline, Salma Hayek, and Kenneth Branagh, and please only remember the quirky television series starring Robert Conrad as a Secret Service agent who uses cool gadgets in the Old West.

Any others that are your favorites that I haven’t mentioned here?