Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Westerns Staging a Comeback on Prime Time Television

According to an August 30, 2011 announcement on The Hollywood Reporter, Ron Moore, the Executive Producer of Battlestar Galactica and Mathew Roberts, writer for the televisions series Caprica, have sold a new Western, Hangtown, to ABC. Ron Moore will produce the show.

Hangtown will have classic Western themes, such as the frontier town coping with the good and bad aspects of railroad expansion in the early 1900s. However, it will also reflect Roberts' fascination with the future as well as his creative touch with a doctor who uses emerging forensic techniques to solve crimes and a town Marshal who uses intuition. There will also be a strong female character who writes about crime.

James Arness played Matt Dillon in the Western phenomenon Gunsmoke.

Hangtown is not the only Western in the works for prime time television. The team from the recently-cancelled Friday Night Lights--a Texas favorite filmed in Austin--Peter Berg and Liz Heldens recently sold a Western with a female perspective to NBC. David Zabel sold Gunslinger to ABC and Jame Mangold's Ralph Lamb , a modern Western about a cowboy-turned-sheriff, is with CBS.

It will be interesting to see if any of these new shows can live up to the long-running and very popular example set by the classics, such as Gunsmoke, starring James Arness, which ran from 1955 to 1975; or Bonanza, starring Lorne Greene, Pernell Roberts, Michael Landon and Dan Blocker, which ran from 1959 to 1973. There were many great classic television Westerns, such as The Virginian (1962-1971); Have Gun Will Travel (1957-1963); and Death Valley Days (1952-1975). I doubt that anything new could ever replace the love we have for the classics, but I am excited to see the new crop of Westerns and will certainly give them a fighting chance to win me over!

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