Personal blog - and temporary home page until new website is finished - of writer, editor and graphic artist Christopher Mills

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

The Cathode Ray West

As regular readers of this blog (if there are any at this point) are aware, I go through various "phases," where one genre of film or television dominates my viewing for a few weeks or - sometimes - months. I recently indulged in a late night binge of Eurospy movies from my video collection, and right now, I'm in the midst of a fascination with late Fifties TV Westerns.

I don't own a whole lot in the genre - I have the first season of Have Gun - Will Travel, the first season of Maverick, and all three seasons of Wanted Dead Or Alive on DVD. I thought I could watch more of these old Western series on Netflix Instant, but was very disappointed to discover that all they currently have available for streaming are a few Bonanza episodes - and I saw way too much Bonanza as a kid to watch it again now. So, I've been alternating between Have Gun episodes and Wanted episodes on DVD.

I wish I had all of the Have Gun - Will Travel seasons - Richard Boone's "Paladin" is one of my favorite TV characters ever - but those sets are pricey. I did find a discounted copy of the Season Two set online and recently ordered it, along with the first season set of Bat Masterson, starring Gene Barry. I've never seen Bat, but I'm a big fan of the actor, and his tongue-in-cheek detective series, Burke's Law, is one of my favorite "classic" TV crime shows. (Now that I think of it, VCI Entertainment really needs to get the remaining seasons of Burke's Law out on DVD soon....)

I hope to get the second season of Maverick when it becomes available next month, and, based on a recommendation by my pal - and Gravedigger collaborator - Rick Burchett, I'm thinking of  maybe picking up the Yancy Derringer series, which starred two-time Tarzan, Jock Mahoney, if I get a few extra bucks anytime soon. I'm a fan of the actor, and the New Orleans setting sounds promising.

So, how long will this 50's TV Western "kick" last? Who knows?


GrayPumpkin said...

I marathoned the first three seasons of "Have Gun Will Travel", a little before Netflix took them down. And I was both surprised and impressed by how well done it was, specially the first season, not a bad episode that I can think of,and some really great ones. Season two was not quite as consistent but it was close. By season three it was a little hit and miss, but still mostly solid. An impressive feat, especially considering they made like forty episodes a season.

Jack Badelaire said...

I know little about this era and genre of television, but it was a proving ground for a lot of talent that wound up in films through the sixties and seventies. There's a lot of big-name stars who cut their acting teeth on these long-running Westerns.

Chuck Patton said...

Yancy Derringer was a great little known series, sorta like the Wild Wild West without the gadgets and over the top villains.
Two other great westerns, both needing to be put out as DVD box collections, are Lawman and The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp.

If you have the Starz western channel, you can catch both.

Christopher Mills said...

Hey Chuck;

I believe the Wyatt Earp series (at least the first season) is available on DVD, though not having seen it, I can't vouch for the set's technical quality.

I don't have cable and can't pick up any broadcast channels where I live, so all of my TV viewing consists of DVD/Blu-rays and Netflix Instant... so, no Starz for me.

Unknown said...

You might also want to try RAWHIDE, great western and it's got Rowdy Yates!

El Vox said...

Rawhide and Wagon Train were pretty good. I think the seasons of Gunsmoke with Dennis Weaver as Chester are some of the best TV westerns ever made. A lot of the Riflemen series was well made.

Currently I've been watching Wells Fargo starring Dale Roberson. It's pretty watchable, along with the Lone Ranger, which I remember as a kid.

Anonymous said...

I've only seen two episodes of Bat Masterson, on a DVD set that collected various 1950s TV Westerns. It looked like a must-see for Gene Barry fans. That show may be what established his "suave, cool, playboy hero" image.