Day 48 of Colourisation Project – June 24
Challenge: to publish daily a colourised photo that has some significance around the day of publication.
Attention all baby boomers! How many of the cowboys in today’s photo can you recognise? (Answers at end of today’s post.)
Today, June 24 marks the day the very first Television Western was aired on American TV in 1949 with Hopalong Cassidy. What baby boomer doesn’t remember Hopalong Cassidy, starring the clean-cut William Boyd?
As a genre the Western was the most American of genres. Although they have now outworn their use-by dates, Television Westerns were a sub-genre of film Westerns, with their plots and action taking place in the later half of the 19th century in the American Old West. Very quickly they became a staple of small-screen entertainment, not only in the USA but here in Australia as well.
A number of long-running TV Westerns became classics in their own right, notably Sugarfoot, The Lone Ranger, Bonanza, Cheyenne, Wyatt Earp, The Rifleman, Laramie, Wanted: Dead or Alive, Gunsmoke, Have Gun, Will Travel, The Virginian, Wagon Train, Maverick, The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok, The High Chaparral, The Gene Autry Show, and Tales of the Texas Rangers to name a few.
Television Westerns hit their peak in 1959, when 26 such shows aired during prime-time.
TV Westerns launched the careers of many fine actors. Rawhide which aired from 1959 to 1966 launched the career of Clint Eastwood. It was the fourth longest-running American TV western, beaten only by nine years of The Virginian and Wagon Train, 14 years of Bonanza, and 20 years of Gunsmoke.
1968 was the last season for any new TV Westerns. By 1969, strong lobbying from parental advocacy groups brought an end to the TV genre, claiming Westerns were too violent for young children. All three of the major US networks acquiesced and stopped airing new Westerns making way for new TV sub-genres; sitcoms, detective and reality shows.