Gunsmoke was an American staple for a whopping twenty seasons, leaping from the radio to television in its infancy and running up to 1975. Over those two decades, the western evolved with the medium, expanding from thirty minutes to an hour in season seven, blossoming into color in season twelve.
For years, those middle episodes, the one-hour black & white era, have rarely been broadcast. Starting on Monday, October 26, Marshal Dillon’s adventures from seasons seven through eleven return to free TV for the first time in ages. You can watch them Monday through Friday at 1PM | 12C on MeTV. At the same time on Saturday, catch one of the later color episodes.
Additionally, western fans, we have wrangled the “lost” episodes of Bonanza! Those too have also been absent from free TV for many years. This lesser-seen batch includes the season six episode “Lothario Larkin,” and episodes from seasons seven through fourteen.
The black & white Gunsmoke episodes offer several treasures. Burt Reynolds rose to fame as blacksmith Quint Asper here. His replacement, Roger Ewing, debuts in this run as well. Of course, the biggest addition to the cast in this span was the beloved Festus, played by Ken Curtis. His introduction to Dodge City is one of our six must-see episodes for newcomers and fans alike.
In the Bonanza batch, you can witness the evolution of the theme song, for starters. (Check out 12 different versions of the classic theme.) These lost episodes also include a piece of TV history, the premiere of season 14, “Forever.” The first Bonanza after the death of Dan “Hoss” Blocker, this was the first time a television show addressed the demise of one of its stars and worked the passing into the storyline. Written and directed by Michael Landon, the two-parter tugs hard on the heartstrings. These lost episodes run after Gunsmoke at 2PM | 1C, Monday through Saturday.
Keep your eyes peeled on MeTV’s Most Wanted Westerns and weekday Rope Opera for these fantastic slices of American pop culture history.