Best Cowboy TV Shows
The best cowboy TV shows bring back so many memories. When television became popular over sixty years ago, the westerns quickly gained the status of stars of the small screen. The year 1959 was the top year for cowboy TV shows with prime time including 26 of them. It is sad that traditional westerns began disappearing from television in the 1960s and 1970s, but they are still available on DVDs for our viewing pleasure.
"Hopalong Cassidy" was the first TV western, premiering in June of 1949. It was easy to put on this show because, at first, the episodes were just taken from the 66 movies that were previously made starring William Boyd.
"The Gene Autry Show" This debuted in July, 1950. Gene Autry was the first major star of movies who not only starred in but also produced a weekly TV series. He is also the only one to have five Hollywood Walk of Fame stars because of his work in front of and also behind the camera.
"The Roy Rogers Show" There were 100 episodes of this black and white series that ran from December, 1951 to June, 1957. The King of the Cowboys, his wife Dale Evans, and Pat Brady were the stars.
"The Lone Ranger" This was the highest-rated TV program on ABC in the early 1950s. Clayton Moore was the masked Texas Range fighting injustice in the American Old West. He was aided by his American Indian sidekick Tonto (Jay Silverheels) and his horse Silver.
"Gunsmoke" This ran with 635 episodes from 1955 to 1975 and featured stories about the settling of the American West. "Gunsmoke" was the longest-running live-action prime time drama in the United States and was not surpassed until "Law & Order" in 2010.
"Maverick" Running from September of 1957 until July of 1962, this comedic western featured alternating tales of four poker-playing Mavericks. James Garner was the most popular, and also included were Roger Moore, Robert Colbert, and Jack Kelly.
"Wagon Train" This series ran on NBC from 1957 to 1962 and on ABC from 1962 to 1965. It stayed high in the Nielsen ratings when it was on NBC and was #1 from 1961 to 1962. Ward Bond was the wagon master until being replaced by John McIntire when Bond died. Robert Horton was the scout until being replaced by Robert Fuller (who looked like Horton) after Horton left.
"Bonanza" was on from 1959 to 1973, ranked second in longest running only behind "Gunsmoke," and is still in syndication. The beloved Cartwrights included the patriarch Ben Cartwright (Lorne Greene) with his three sons, Adam (Pernell Roberts), Hoss (Dan Blocker) and Little Joe (Michael Landon).
"Rawhide" started the career of Clint Eastwood. Airing from 1959 to 1966, "Rawhide" starred Eric Fleming in stories involving drovers who would solve problems of people they met along the trail.
"The Big Valley" ran from 1965 to 1969 and starred Barbara Stanwyck as Victoria Barkley, a spunky widowed mother who appeared in 103 of the 112 episodes. Jarrod Thomas Barkley (Richard Long) was a usually calm attorney. Nick Barkley (Peter Breck) was the brawling younger son with a hot temper. Daughter Audra (Linda Evans) performed daring riding stunts and wanted to be like he brothers. Heath Barkley (Lee Majors) was Victoria's late husband's illegitimate son whose father never knew that he existed.
- Jacklyn Barlow