Best Television Westerns
Television westerns may have had their heyday in the 1950s and 1960s, but you will find the best television westerns spread out over a much larger span of time. The original westerns tended to be a little campy in places but stuck strong to the western theme, while more modern westerns had a darker, more real slant to their plots, but often included elements from other genres in the shows.
"Deadwood." This brutal, often disgusting look at real life in the west is everything that a television show should be. The writing and acting are simply second to none. The real-life town of Deadwood, South Dakota and its real late-1800s inhabitants provide the backdrop for this three-season epic story.
"Gunsmoke." With 635 episodes spread out over twenty years, "Gunsmoke" is the one of the longest running shows television history. The show follows the exploits of Marshall Matt Dillon in Dodge City, Kansas.
"The Lone Ranger." This television western, which got its start as a radio program, follows the titular character as he rides about the old west dispensing justice on his white stallion.
"Lonesome Dove." This 1989 western mini-series, based on the book of the same name, revitalized American interest in the western genre. The story focuses on two retired Texas Rangers and their relationship and adventures moving cattle across the west.
"Bonanza." This was another long-running television western, running from the late 1950s to the early 1970s. The series focused on a single western family, the Cartwrights, and while other westerns focused on the adventurous setting, "Bonanza" often focused on how the family members interacted.
"Have Gun Will Travel." This late 1950s and 1960s television western follows the adventures of Paladin, a former army officer who was available for hire for vigilante justice. For its time, "Have Gun Will Travel" is a very dark look at the west and at humanity in general.
"Firefly." This isn't a true television western, by any means, but Joss Whedon's mix of science fiction and western genres is truly a breath of fresh air. This show, while brief, is both funny and poignant with amazing writing and lovable characters.
"Maverick." This television western combines the action of the old west with some serious comedic overtones. The show usually has one or two main characters, all from the Maverick family, with each episode focusing on one or the other.
"How the West Was Won." This mini-series is a spin-off from the movie of the same name. The story follows the exploits of the Macahan family as they move west during the mid-1800s.
"The Rifleman." The story of "The Rifleman" follows Lucas and Mark McCain as they fight for justice in a northern New Mexico town. The series features a lot of deep and meaningful episodes, despite taking its title from the main character's common use of a gun.