Thursday, August 04, 2016

My Ten Favorite Western TV Shows

To continue celebrating Legends of Western Cinema Week, here is a list of my top ten favorite western TV shows.  I own at least one season's-worth of eps of each on DVD, and can't recommend them highly enough.

1. The Big Valley (1965-69) follows the adventures of the rich, influential Barkley family:  wise matriarch Victoria (Miss Barbara Stanwyck), sensible lawyer Jarrod (Richard Long), hot-tempered charmer Nick (Peter Breck), sensitive tough guy Heath (Lee Majors), and bold sister Audra (Linda Evans).  Together or apart, they're always encountering excitement of one sort or another in and around the big California valley they own.  (That's them in the button at the top of the page.)

2. Cheyenne (1955-63) focuses on nomadic loner Cheyenne Bodie (Clint Walker), who travels the west helping people, taking odd jobs, and doing the right thing wherever he can.  Kind of like the Lone Ranger, but generally without a sidekick, and always without a mask.

3. The Rifleman (1958-63) tells the story of widowed rancher Lucas McCain (Chuck Connors) and his son Mark (Johnny Crawford), and all the bad guys who seem drawn to the tiny Texas town of North Fork, where Marshal Micah Torrence (Paul Fix) is forever needing Lucas and his famous, specially modified Winchester to help stave them off.

4. Wanted: Dead or Alive (1958-61) is about bounty hunter Josh Randall (Steve McQueen) and his quest to earn money by capturing bad guys and delivering them to the authorities, with many moral dilemmas mixed in.  This may actually be the strongest western show of all -- it has very few "so-so" episodes, and manymanymany magnificent ones.

5. Five Mile Creek (1983-85) delves into the daily lives of a band of strangers working together to run a small stage coach line and its way station in the Australia frontier.  Through a variety of adversities and problems, they forge a "found family" that I have wanted to belong to for as long as I can remember.

6. The Lone Ranger (1949-57) is about John Reid (Clayton Moore), the only survivor of an ambushed party of Texas Rangers.  After the lonesome Indian Tonto (Jay Silverheels) nurses him back to health, the two embark on a crusade to bring justice, law, and order to the West.

7. Zorro (1957-59) follows the merry adventures of wealthy Spanish scion Diego de la Vega (Guy Williams) as he battles injustice, oppression, and greed in old California.  It's superduper fun

8. Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman (1993-98) is about intrepid woman doctor Michaela Quinn (Jane Seymour), who moves to Colorado Springs, adopts three kids, romances handsome and sometimes mysterious Sully (Joe Lando), and generally works to eradicate disease, prejudice, and ignorance.

9. Maverick (1957-62) technically is about the three Maverick brothers:  Bret (James Garner), Bart (Jack Kelly), and Beau (Roger Moore), but Beau's only in sixteen episodes, so mostly it's about Bret and Bart.  They're all gamblers who drift around the west, preferring to use their sly intelligence and vast network of friends to solve problems, rather than fists or guns.

10. The Wild Wild West (1965-69) is basically James Bond in the Old West.  Secret Service agents James West (Robert Conrad) and Artemus Gordon (Ross Martin) foil anarchists, assassins, thieves, vandals, murderers, kidnappers, and any other fantastical bad guys the writers could dream up.  They have a special train car filled with gadgets and gizmos, and Artie is always dreaming up some wonderful disguise or other to get information or rescue Jim.  The later seasons are quite violent, and eventually the series was cancelled as a result, but the early seasons are funny and delightful.

And now you're going to ask me how come Bonanza and Gunsmoke, surely the most famousest western TV shows ever, are not on my list.  And the answer is that I like them just fine, but they're not my favorites, that's all.

Don't forget to check out Meanwhile, in Rivendell... and A Lantern in Her Hand for more fun all this week, and for links to others who are participating.  And don't forget to enter my giveaway, either!  Four of the shows I'm giving away are on this list!


  1. Wanted: Dead or Alive is the greatest thing since The Magnificent Seven, the end.

  2. I recently ran across Cheyenne, I wanted to see it and then put it aside for the time, but now... Kind of like the Lone Ranger, but generally without a sidekick, and always without a mask. and doing the right thing whenever he can - You have me wanting to see it so very much all over again!

    The problem with Western TV shows? There are so many insanely good ones how could one ever have time to watch them all?

    1. Eowyn, I know!!! I mean, I actually own all 3 seasons of The Big Valley and all SEVEN of Cheyenne, and I've only watched like 2/3 of BV and one season of Chey. I Need More Time.

  3. Cool! A bunch of these I've seen little bits of, at my Grandma and Grandpa's house over the years, and Dr. Quinn I LOVE with a great burning passion.

    1. Emma Jane, I first encountered so many of these at my grandparents' house too! They had cable (we didn't), and we spent a month with them every summer. My dad and I would wake up early on Saturday (like 6am, so not crazy early) and watch cowboy shows together allllllll morning. Loved them!

  4. I've watched 6 of these shows regularly (#'s 1-6 actually), and must say you have good taste. I personally have to say that The Rifleman and Big Valley are about the best you can get in a TV show. And, not surprisingly, they both were made by the same group of WWII buddies.

    1. Thank you, Annie! I would say that Big Valley, The Rifleman, and Wanted: Dead or Alive are the pinnacle of classic TV westerns. Other shows are awesome too, but those three are just so good.

      And yeah, the Levy-Gardner-Laven productions who were responsible for those two made some amazing things, didn't they?

  5. My top fave TV westerns are Laredo(1965~'66),and The High Chaparral(1967~'71).

    Laredo was about the rollicking adventures of 4 Texas Rangers out of B Company,Laredo,TX.
    The show stood out from most westerns as it had as much humor as it did action.
    The cast had terrific chemistry together.Neville Brand stood out as the bellowing fog horned voice Reese Bennett.
    Reese was easily riled,not always the sharpest tool in the shed but plenty tough and able to get the job done.

    THC was filmed(mostly)on location in Arizona.That alone made it unique among TV westerns since the majority were filmed in Hollywood.
    The AZ scenery was fresh to gander for a welcome change from always seeing the hills of CA.
    The cast was great & the action and drama always well done.

    1. Powers, thanks for stopping by!

      I've seen an ep or two of both Laredo and High Chaparral. I find Neville Brand really interesting, so I'd like to see more of Laredo at some point.

      You're right, the location shoots did make High Chaparral seem fresh and different! I really like the theme song, too.

  6. Wild Wild West was one of my dad's favorite tv shows, so in the last few months I've been watching it with him a lot. I'm so glad to find someone else who likes it! I love Artie, and the biggest disappointment with the fourth season is that he isn't in a lot of episodes because Ross Martin was having health issues.

    1. MC, it's a great show! I know DKoren is a big fan too. I've only seen random episodes sprinkled throughout the series, whatever we could catch on cable TV at our grandparents' in the '90s, plus part of season 1, which I have on DVD. Artie is just wonderful -- I love it whenever one of his disguises fools me for a minute or two. So good!

      My brother and I were especially partial to the episodes with Miguelito Loveless (Michael Dunn) in them.


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