It’s hard to believe, but starting in 1947 (Howdy Doody
), with very few exceptions, there has been at least one Western on TV every season. In 1984, the genre took the year off (probably due to Little House fatigue), and there was some downtime after Deadwood ended and before Justified premiered (2007-2009), but other than those four years, some form of Western, be it traditional, revisionist, steampunk, or sci-fi hybrid, has always graced our screens. Here is a brief rundown of the history and trends of the Western in American television.
In the 1950s and 60s, Westerns ruled the air. There were at least 98 distinct shows during the 50s and 89 in the 60s. In 1959, there were 26 Westerns during primetime alone, and keep in mind that these were the days of three-channel TV. Shows such as The Lone Ranger
, Have Gun—Will Travel, and Maverick were huge hits and Gunsmoke and Bonanza premiered and became decade-spanning institutions.