November 10, 2023

#08-357: Gunsmoke

Miss Kitty, Doc, Festus, and Marshal Matt Dillon (Wikipedia)

Note: One of my dad's favorite TV shows--and mine, too!

Get Ready: Do you think cowboy shows or westerns are stereotyped--that is the good guy is perfect, and the bad guy purely evil?

When I was a kid there was one television in the house, and no other means of watching: no computers, no smart phones. Dad, a hard-working man, usually fell asleep on the sofa after dinner. But he commandeered the family TV for one hour on Saturday nights (later Mondays) for "his show": a "western" (cowboy) program called Gunsmoke.

The 1960s were the heyday of TV westerns; one source lists nearly 90 appearing at some point during the decade, including comedies, children's shows, anthology series, and even cartoons. (In addition to Gunsmoke, Dad later started watching Bonanza and High Chaparral.)

But Gunsmoke was born well before the '60s, starting as a radio program in 1952. It made the leap to television in 1955 (though the radio program continued until 1961, overlapping the TV version by several years). The TV series ran for 20 seasons, with a total of 635 episodes.

Both iterations had essentially the same setting and cast of characters, though played by an entirely different cast.

The stories centered on Marshal Matt Dillon, a lawman in Dodge City, Kansas, in the 1870s. Dodge at the time was the "queen of the cow towns," a railhead to which ranchers in Texas drove thousands of head of cattle hundreds of miles for shipping to the east. This brought in lots of wild cowboys with money in their pockets from the payout.

Being marshal in such a town was tough! But Matt had support. Miss Kitty Russell ran the Long Branch Saloon (a historical place) where a lot of trouble happened. Because there was regular interaction between Miss Kitty and the Marshal, she became his platonic love interest.

Needless to say, an important figure in any town of the Old West was the doctor, in this case "Doc" Adams. Called "Charles" in the radio show, his name was changed to "Galen" for the TV series, partially as a tribute to the ancient Roman Greek physician Galen (129-216 CE). Doc dispensed wise advice along with his prescriptions, serving as a moral anchor for the show.

The TV show added two "sidekicks" to the cast, both deputies to the marshal: first Chester Goode for ten years, then Festus Haggen for another ten.


Practice: Match the term to its definition:

  1. anthology
  2. commandeered
  3. deputies
  4. dispensed
  5. head
  6. heyday
  7. iterations
  8. platonic
  9. railhead
  10. sidekicks
  1. a way of counting cows
  2. a collection of stories
  3. took control of something
  4. period of greatest popularity
  5. gave out
  6. assistants
  7. versions; repetitions
  8. intimate and affectionate but not sexual
  9. the end of a railroad
  10. close but "inferior" associates

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for November 10, 2023

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. b; 2. c; 3. f; 4. e; 5. a; 6. d; 7. g; 8. h; 9. i; 10. j