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The Nielsens--add 1

August 10, 2007 |  9:11 am

What was "Gunsmoke?"

Oh don't do this to me.

OK, kids. "Gunsmoke" was an incredibly popular TV show that went off the air in . . . 1975. (What? Could this be right?  Surely it wasn't that long ago). It was something called a "Western," which was the staple of TV programming in the 1950s and what we had before "Star Trek" was invented. In fact "Star Trek" was originally conceived as a knockoff of another Western and was pitched as (Lord help me) " 'Wagon Train' to the stars."

No, I'm serious.

"Gunsmoke" was set in Dodge City and based on a radio show (Don't ask. We're not going there.)  and starred James Arness. He was "the giant carrot" in "The Thing."  No, the original in glorious black and white, not John Carpenter's "The Thing." (Who is John Carpenter? Oh we're never going to get through this. You know, John "Halloween" and "Escape From L.A." Carpenter?). Arness is also in "Them!" That's the movie about giant ants attacking L.A. Make that giant flying ants.
 
The main characters were Marshal Matt Dillon (Arness), Doc (Milburn Stone) and Miss Kitty (Amanda Blake), who ran the Long Branch Saloon. For a while, Dillon had a deputy named Chester, played by Dennis Weaver, who limped and for many years anybody who limped was nicknamed Chester.
 
True confession, kids. I never liked "Gunsmoke" and quit watching when Weaver left the show because he was replaced by Festus (Ken Curtis), an incredibly annoying, obnoxious hillbilly who was apparently intended to provide comic relief. By that time I'd already switched to "Maverick." 

What was "Maverick?"
 
Oh you kids these days.

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