An article in Variety about westerns got me thinking about this sadly overlooked genre.
Let’s face it westerns are basicly dead. They don’t command anywhere near the audience they used to at the box office, in bookstores or on television. I’ve only recently come to enjoy and appreciate westerns. It was Larry Mcmurtry’s “lonesome dove” that got me hooked — then I discovered Elmer kelton, Frederick Manfred, AB Guthrie, Edwin Shrake, Tom Eidson, Robert Randisi, Loren Estelman and fell in love with the genre. I even joined the Western Writers of America to learn more about it and discover more authors. I thought “the missing” an “open range” were terrific, and was sad to see them tank at the box office. During my recovery in the hospital, TNT or some other network reran a couple of Tom Selleck’s TV westerns — and I thought they were well-made, well-written. well-acted, and very entertaining (or maybe I was just high on painkillers). Selleck is very convincing as a western hero, and clearly loves the genre. I guess he’s the TV equivalent of Kevin Costner in that regard. I’ve even come to appreciate Gunsmoke — I never realized what an intelligent and adult series it was. Of course, it also had a period when it was awful – in the late 60s — but I’m enjoyimg rediscovering the show. It’s actually possible now, if you have tivo, to watch the black-and-white half-hour episodes on the Hallmark channel from the fifties, the the black-and-white hourlong episodes from the sixties on the Western channel, and the hourlong color episodes from the late sixties occur seventies on TV. I’ve even come to enjoy some classic radio westerns on my morning and evening commutes — particularly James Stewart as the six shooter. Westerns deserve a comeback — in the same way cop shows and mysteries are today. Perhaps hbo’s deadwood will reignite interest in the genre.