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(1955–1975)

Parents Guide

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Sex & Nudity

  • There is no nudity, other than men taking off their shirts (most-often in Doc's office).
  • In early episodes, it's implied that some of the Long Branch's dance-hall girls are prostitutes -- including (by association) Miss Kitty. (This was not true of the real Long Branch.) Sex between men and women is implied, but couples are never shown in bed together.
  • Festus' girlfriend is raped (off-screen) in one episode. Miss KItty is raped in at least two of the color episodes ("Mannon" and "Hostage!"). She indicates in one episode that Matt isn't the only man she loves (the implication being that "love" includes sex).

Violence & Gore

  • "Gunsmoke" was originally a radio series intended to present a more-accurate picture of just how dangerous and violent the American West really was. It was so "adult" (for its time), that for the first few years it was a "sustaining" program -- there were no sponsors and CBS footed the bill. William Paley thought so highly of the show he didn't want sponsors trying to dictate its contents.
  • John Meston was the radio series' principal writer, and penned many TV episodes for the first eight years of its run. (Most of these were adaptations of his radio scripts.) His stories were gritty beyond gritty, his villains not merely bad, or even evil, but sometimes psychotic monsters. The latter weren't always criminals, but "ordinary" people who lived in a world outside of what most would consider common decency.
  • The violence of both the radio and TV series can be described with two adjectives -- unvarnished and blunt. In "Potato Road", family members kill each out of plain hatred; a neighbor who stops by to chat is gunned down out of simple meanness. In "The Cabin", Matt is held hostage by two criminal loonies who repeatedly threaten to kill him. He disposes of one of them with a pitchfork.
  • Even by today's standards, the violence can be disturbing. In "Never Pester Chester", Marshall Dillon sends Chester Goode to tell two rowdies to stop bothering women. Unfortunately for Chester, they're psychopaths who rope him and drag him behind their horses for a good two miles (which in real life would probably have killed him). In "The Photographer", an Eastern photographer has a harmless prospector murdered to obtain grisly photos for his magazine -- and hopefully start an Indian war. In another episode, a buffalo hunter who doesn't want to pay his employees gets rid of one by shoving his face into a pan of molten lead.
  • Even the principals can be guilty of murder. In an early Festus Haggen episode, Festus tracks down the man who raped his girlfriend, forces the man to take off his gun belt, then shoots him down. In "The Killer", Matt is confronted with a man who tricks people into drawing first so he can "legally" kill them. Matt plays the same game (quite cleverly), so he can off the guy, the justification being that he won't be able to kill anyone else.
  • As the series "matured", lengthening into hour-long episodes, then acquiring color, there was less violence -- but not necessarily less-extreme violence. Miss Kitty is beaten and raped in at least two color episodes, the second of which has the villain shooting her in the back in front of Dodge's citizens. And in "Thirty a Month and Found" -- one of the series' high points -- cattle drivers who realize they'll be out of work once cattle are shipped by train make all the wrong choices and leave a trail of bodies behind them.
  • "Gunsmoke" got away with all this -- and much more -- because it was a basically serious program. The writing and acting were of generally high quality, and the tone subdued, the opposite of the poor acting and broad histrionics of "Bonanza" or "The Big Valley", which were good only by accident. "Gunsmoke" /tried/ to be good, and often succeeded.
  • Until recently, IMDb gave "Gunsmoke" an overall rating of TV-G. Few episodes are innocuous enough to justify that rating. Most are sufficiently violent to justify TV-PG, and a significant percentage require TV-14. Considered as a whole, "Gunsmoke" is not a series suitable for unsupervised viewing by pre-teens.

Profanity

  • "Dang!" appears to be the closest any script comes to profanity.
  • I'm not certain whether Damn or Hell are ever used.

Alcohol, Drugs & Smoking

  • Beer and hard liquor flow freely in the Long Branch. Male characters commonly smoke, though none of the principals do.

Frightening & Intense Scenes

  • This is highly subjective, as what frightens or disturbs one person (especially a child) might have no effect on another.
  • Death is common. Given the era in which "Gunsmoke" was made, "graphic" deaths and on-screen torture are not shown. But even adults might find the death of the trail boss at the end of "Saturday Night", or the death of a man's best friend in "Thirty a Month and Found", disturbing.

See also

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