Some 1960s television westerns include “Gunsmoke,” “Bonanza,” “Maverick” and “The Big Valley.” Westerns were a popular genre that dominated ratings in early television, with more than 25 westerns airing in prime time in 1959.
“Gunsmoke” was a drama set in Dodge City, Kansas, that aired on radio and television. The main character, Marshal Matt Dillon, was played by William Conrad on radio and James Arness on television. The television series ran for 20 seasons and 635 episodes, from 1955 to 1975. As of 2015, “Gunsmoke” is the longest running western television series of all time.
“Bonanza,” which aired on NBC from 1959 to 1973, is set on the Ponderosa Ranch near Lake Tahoe, Nevada in the 1860s. The show featured the Cartwright family, played by actors including Lorne Greene, Michael Landon and Pernell Roberts. “Bonanza” often tackled tough social issues such as racism and anti-semetism.
“Maverick,” which aired on ABC from 1957 to 1963, starred James Garner as card shark Bret Maverick and Jack Kelly as his brother Bart. The show featured the brothers traveling across the American Old West and on Mississippi riverboats, playing poker, getting into trouble and catching criminals.
“The Big Valley” aired on ABC from 1965 to 1969. It was set in California’s Sacramento Valley after the Civil War, and starred Barbara Stanwyck as a widowed matriarch. The cast included Richard Long, Peter Breck, Lee Majors and Linda Evans.