TV Shows Set in the Wild West: A Look at the Best Western TV Series of All Time
Posted On April 20, 2023
When we think of the Wild West, we often imagine cowboys on horseback, dusty saloons, and shootouts at high noon. It’s a time and place that has captured the imaginations of countless filmmakers and TV producers, resulting in a wide range of Western-themed TV shows over the years.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at some of the best TV shows set in the Wild West. From classic Westerns to modern takes on the genre, there’s something here for everyone.
First on our list is the longest-running Western TV series of all time, Gunsmoke. The show aired for an impressive 20 seasons and 635 episodes, making it a staple of American television during the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s.
Set in the late 1800s in the fictional town of Dodge City, Kansas, Gunsmoke followed the adventures of Marshal Matt Dillon (played by James Arness) as he fought to keep the peace in a rough and tumble frontier town. The show was known for its realistic portrayal of life in the Wild West, and it tackled serious issues like racism and alcoholism in a way that was ahead of its time.
Bonanza is another classic Western TV series that aired during the same era as Gunsmoke. The show followed the adventures of the Cartwright family, who owned a ranch in Nevada in the 1860s. Led by patriarch Ben Cartwright (played by Lorne Greene), the family faced a variety of challenges, including conflicts with neighboring ranchers and outlaws.
One of the most popular Western TV shows of all time, Bonanza aired for 14 seasons and 430 episodes. It was known for its memorable theme song and its strong ensemble cast, which included Michael Landon, Pernell Roberts, and Dan Blocker.
Moving ahead to more modern takes on the Western genre, Deadwood is a critically acclaimed HBO series that aired for three seasons from 2004 to 2006. Set in the late 1800s in the town of Deadwood, South Dakota, the show explored the gritty and often violent world of the Wild West.
Starring Ian McShane as the ruthless saloon owner Al Swearengen and Timothy Olyphant as the righteous lawman Seth Bullock, Deadwood was known for its realistic portrayal of life in a lawless frontier town. The show was praised for its writing, its ensemble cast, and its attention to historical detail.
Hell on Wheels (2011-2016)
Another recent Western TV series, Hell on Wheels aired for five seasons from 2011 to 2016. Set during the construction of the first transcontinental railroad in the 1860s, the show followed former Confederate soldier Cullen Bohannon (played by Anson Mount) as he sought revenge against the Union soldiers who killed his family.
With its sprawling cast of characters and its depiction of the brutal conditions faced by railroad workers, Hell on Wheels was a unique take on the Western genre. The show was praised for its production values and its willingness to tackle serious issues like racism and the exploitation of Chinese immigrant workers.
Finally, we have Westworld, a sci-fi Western series that has been airing on HBO since 2016. Set in a futuristic theme park where guests can live out their Wild West fantasies, the show explores themes of artificial intelligence, free will, and the nature of consciousness.
Starring Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, and Jeffrey Wright, Westworld is known for its complex narrative structure and its stunning production values. The show has been praised for its thought-provoking themes and its outstanding performances.
These are just a few of the many Western-themed TV shows that have captivated audiences over the years. From classic Westerns like Gunsmoke and Bonanza to more recent takes on the genre like Deadwood, Hell on Wheels, and Westworld, there’s something here for everyone.
What makes these shows so compelling is their ability to transport us to a time and place that feels both familiar and foreign. The Wild West may be a thing of the past, but its legacy lives on in these TV shows and the countless other films, books, and songs that have been inspired by it.
So if you’re a fan of Westerns or just looking for something new to watch, be sure to check out one of these great TV shows set in the Wild West.