Wednesday, November 13, 2013

'Gunsmoke' trumps glitter, rock and roll...

While several of my friends are headed over to Thompson-Boling Arena to see The Eagles, I'm eased back on the couch watching "Gunsmoke."

Guess I never was meant for glitter, rock and roll...

"Gunsmoke" is something of an institution. It ran in primetime for 20 years and 635 episodes, the latter of which is still a record for a scripted American television series. It is television's best western -- without a close second.

My two favorite periods are the early 30-minute episodes (1955-61) and the hour-long color episodes (1966-75). The half hour shows were lean and mean, the writing cogent and crisp. The color episodes -- the best of 'em anyway -- are like mini movies.

Part of my fondness for the show is connected to family. My late grandfather Wayne Wyatt loved this show. Back when I lived with my grandparents, he'd often poke his head in my room about 7 and say, "Is it time for Marshal Dillion yet?"

Papaw told me "Gunsmoke" was the only program my great-grandfather would watch on television, coming down to my Papaw's house each Saturday night in time to root on Marshal Matt Dillon.

My dad loves it, too. We'll often compare favorite episodes we've seen lately when we talk on the telephone.

I also like to listen to the radio show when I can't sleep. It stars William Conrad as Matt Dillon, Parley Baer as Chester, Howard McNear as Doc Adams and Georgia Ellis as Kitty Russell. The show, which ran for nearly a decade, pioneered the use of sound effects and is darker and edgier than the television version. Listen to episodes here.

My friend Dean Harned surprised me on my birthday one year by purchasing me an autographed photo of James "Marshal Dillon" Arness. I felt like I'd won the lottery.

My heroes have always been cowboys, and still are, it seems...

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