I’m not speaking of the days of the western expansion, but rather my own “good old days”. The subjects are closely related as I was raised on television westerns.
The first western series began two years before I was born and that fact would have been lost on me until I reached age five and our family got our first television set. Several of the earliest television shows about the west had already run their course by the time I first encountered the genre.
The Lone Ranger, Hopalong Cassidy, Gene Autry, the Cisco Kid… “Hey, Pancho…” “Hey, Cisco…” Such brilliant repartee to my youthful ears. And there was Wild Bill Hickok, Roy Rogers, Spin and Marty, Sky King, Judge Roy Bean, Buffalo Bill, the Texas Rangers, Fury, Cheyenne, and the ever-present Gunsmoke.
Over the years, new shows came and others drifted away. Some were very good and some were excruciatingly bad. And by the end of the seventies, the western was no longer the dominant genre on the television.
Times changed, tastes changed, and the Native American movement proved to the last of us that the “history” as we knew it was so completely – and painfully – wrong.
Still, even without the spectre of Manifest Destiny casting its terrible long shadow over the era, there were some very brave and stoic people who braved the elements to forge a home in the midst of even the most forbidding environments. “Little House on the Prairie” was that sort of tale. Manifest Destiny did not have to rear its head for the stories to matter.
But the west (wild or otherwise) began to matter less and less. Crime drama have taken their place. Either that or dysfunctional families of the mob variety or otherwise. Westerns found fewer and fewer fans.
“Deadwood” was great but was short-lived. Today there is only “Hell on Wheels”.
Sure, they still make (or remake) the occasional western film, but even those are getting scarce.
Probably no wonder I don’t watch television much anymore, huh?