Wednesday, May 15, 2019

"Best Of The Westerns"

A while back, a regular reader asked which TV westerns I used to watch.  I have hesitated to respond because my embarrassing answer is,

“All of them.”

It is actually more embarrassing than that.  If you asked me which TV shows I watched – period, my honest response would be

“All of them.”

From “John Conte’s (whoever that was) Stairway to the Stars” to the “Kefauver Crime Hearings” to “The Camel Caravan with John Cameron Swayze”, a national news broadcast that donated gift cartons of Camel Cigarettes to selected members of “our Armed Forces overseas.”  (Although none to kid viewers from Toronto, who, like hopeful lottery contenders, wished for their names to be announced.)

I also watched live televised dramas like The United States Steel Hour (when a lone sponsor could independently bankroll a whole series) and Playhouse 90, where big-time actors performed original plays concerning the vital issues of the day.  I had no idea was they were talking about, but I watched. 

Of course, I watched comedies, like The Jack Benny Program, Sid Caesar’s Your Show of Shows and Sergeant Bilko, starring Phil Silvers (who wore horn-rimmed glasses frames with no glass in them, believing it was “a funnier ‘look’.”)

But mostly, I watched westerns.  The reason I mostly watched westerns was because westerns were mostly what was on television.  During one season, 39 westerns loped across the TV terrain. 

I believe I watched all of them.

(Why did I watch all that television?  Television is easy.  Unlike books, television reads to you and turns the pages.  Plus, we had winter.)

Finally, addressing the original question – which westerns I watched, which implies which westerns I preferred – I guess my favorites were…


I watched everything, and that’s it.

And sometimes, I really “stooped.”

I watched Sky King, who flew a plane called the “Song Bird”, though I disliked westerns where they drove cars and talked on the telephone.  I watched Annie Oakley, which was, demonstrably, “for girls.”  I watched Hotel de Paree, in which, the promotable gimmicks were running so thin by then, the lead character Sundance’s identifying distinction was a hat with a bunch of shiny, silver discs sewn to the hand band, so that, facing the sun, the reflected sunbeams blinded his opponents in gunfights.

I actually watched that.

There was another show at the end of the westerns’ heyday where the hero’s six-gun was reworked to hold seven bullets.

BAD GUY:  “I’ve been countin’.  You’re outta bullets.”



The Bad Guy dies, shot, and seriously confused.

(Those shiny discs and the seven bullets – it was kind of like cheating.  And yet I still watched.)

Speaking of dying, there was a clear distinction between westerns tailored for kids (The Lone Ranger, The Cisco Kid), where outlaws were shot in the hand, and what were called “Adult Westerns” (Gunsmoke, Have Gun, Will Travel) where they were shot in the heart.

The common denominator for both sub-genres, however:

No blood.

My mind affectionately goes to westerns that had shorter runs making them unavailable for syndicated rebroadcast, like The Adventures of Jim Bowie, which I watched primarily for the knife, and Yancy Deringer, featuring a Bayou “dandy,” who, the theme song said,

“… wore ruffles at his wrists, brocade and silver buckles, and iron in his fists.” 

I appreciated the contrast.

If there were a gun to my head – continuing the motif – I guess my favorite western was Rawhide. 

“Movin’, movin’, movin’
Though they’re disapprovin’
Keep them dogies movin’

It seemed more authentic to me. 

Says a kid from Toronto, judging “western authentic.”

Have Gun, Will Travel had style, and forever since made me wish that, like “Paladin” I lived in a hotel.  As I post facto discovered, Have Gun had a string of superior writing contributors, such as Sam Peckinpah, Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and Bruce Geller, creator of Mission Impossible.

Even then, I subliminally knew quality.

Though I admittedly watched everything, westerns were special to me.  (That and Hockey Night in Canada.)  Even today, watching The Westerns Channel, a horse comes into view and I cellularly relax. 

I do not know what it is.

It just still makes me smile.
Speaking of smiling, nothing bring a smile easier than a call from my daughter.

Let me be clear.

Though all phone calls, including those to kill time, interrupting my blogatorial "flow", are jarringly disruptive, I would not trade a call from my daughter for blogatorial "flow" for all the money in the world.

And that goes for the rest of my family as well.

Call whenever you want.  Just, FYI, I am finished by two.

1 comment:

JED said...

When you mentioned Yancy Derringer it brought back a memory I hadn't had for decades! I must have watched that show because your description sounds familiar and I vividly remember (now) having a wide leather belt with a buckle that held a single-shot toy derringer. Normally, the spring-loaded derringer would flip out when you pushed out with your stomach to push the release. But I was so skinny (back then) that I couldn't work it very well. So, when it came time to surprise my opponent, even though my hands were raised, I would go through all sorts of contortions trying to push out my stomach and fire the gun. I usually ended up lowering one hand to push the hidden switch to release the derringer.

When I looked this up on Wikipedia to make sure I wasn't imaging the association, it said, "A belt buckle inset with a toy single-barrel derringer, sold by Mattel at the time and popularly associated with Yancy, did not resemble anything that the character actually used." From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia