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This exceptionally successful program is often referred to as the medium's first "adult Western." The term is used to indicate differences between the Hollywood "B" Westerns and versions of the genre designed for the small screen in the 1950s and 1960s.
Without recourse to panoramic vistas, thundering herds of cattle, and massed charges by "Indians" or the United States Cavalry, the television Western often concentrated on character relationships and tense psychological drama. Set in Dodge City, Kansas in the 1890s, the series focused on the character of United States Marshall, Matt Dillon, played by James Arness.
, America's longest running television Western, aired on CBS from 1955-75. It remained in that position until 1961 and in the top twenty until 1964.
Surrounding Dillon were characters who became one of television's best known "work-place families." Kitty Russell (Amanda Blake) owned and managed a local saloon, The Longbranch, and over the years developed a deep friendship with Dillon that always seemed to border on something more intimate.
The dramatic formula for the series, particularly in later years, was simple. Woody Chamblis Halligan (1967-1975)...................
Some type of "outsider"--a family separated from a wagon train, an ex-Confederate officer, a wandering theatre troupe--entered the world of the regular characters. With the conflict came the need for decision and action. Many sides of the same issue could be presented, especially when moral problems, not action and adventure, were the central concerns.
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