Pioneers of Television: Season 2, Episode 2

Westerns (25 Jan. 2011)

TV Episode  -   -  Documentary
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This episodes reviews various contributions to the western genre on early US television. Maverick (1957), starring 'James Garner' was an early success and noted for its humor. The Rifleman ... See full summary »

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(as Steven J. Boettcher)
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Cast

Episode credited cast:
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Himself
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Kitty Russell from Gunsmoke (archive footage)
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Himself / Hoss Cartwright from Bonanza (archive footage)
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Nick Barkley from Big Valley (archive footage)
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Himself
Leo Carillo ...
Pancho from Cisco Kid (archive footage)
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Himself / Lucas McCain from Rifleman (archive footage)
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Himself
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Marshal Matt Dillon from Radio's Gunsmoke (voice) (archive footage)
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Herself
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Storyline

This episodes reviews various contributions to the western genre on early US television. Maverick (1957), starring 'James Garner' was an early success and noted for its humor. The Rifleman (1958) was created by Sam Peckinpah, later noted for his more violent take on westerns. It starred Chuck Connors as a single parent raising his young son. Bonanza (1959) with Lorne Greene as a rich rancher with three grown sons was noted for never having a permanent female character. The Big Valley (1965) on the other hand was noted for its strong female characters played by Barbara Stanwyck and Linda Evans. The Wild Wild West (1965) starring Robert Conrad was noted for it's sometimes bizarre story lines and although still very popular, was canceled in 1969 when the US government began a campaign against violence on TV. The High Chaparral (1967) had several Latino actors in key roles and Daniel Boone (1964) included many African-American actors when few were to be found on US television. Gunsmoke (... Written by garykmcd

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Documentary

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Release Date:

25 January 2011 (USA)  »

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User Reviews

Inadequate treatment of the subject
31 January 2011 | by (New York, New York) – See all my reviews

I was entertained (up to a point) by the vintage clips and interesting interviews in this latest segment of the "Pioneers of TV" series, a gloss on the Golden Era of Westerns on the tube. But it barely scratched the surface.

Director Steven Boettcher is clearly hampered by the sad fact that so many of the great creators and performers have died. Basically, such a documentary should have been done sooner, or he should have done more archival research in digging up vintage interviews with more key people.

Instead there is too much utterly pointless generic "new footage" with various extras enacting standard Western "scenes": gunfights, bar brawls, guys falling off roofs, etc. Who needs it? Similarly, the interviewees are all nice to see but mostly irrelevant personages who had the decency to remain alive long enough for Boettcher to corral, people (I happen to like) like Stefhanie Powers. I'd like to hear her interviewed about living with William Holden, making GIRL FROM U.N.C.L.E. and HART TO HART or presumably fascinating tales about many years living in Africa as a noted environmentalist. Heck, I'd even settle for her behind-the-scenes recollections of filming the classic EXPERIMENT IN TERROR with the recently deceased Blake Edwards. But tapping her expertise on the TV Western -pointless.

So it goes with exactly the same defect to interviewing Angie Dickinson on this topic -another legendary actress with so many other important areas in her background, but not this one.

I will concede important figures did get interviewed, notably Fess Parker (since deceased), Robert Conrad, Johnny Crawford, Dennis Weaver (since deceased), James Garner and Robert Culp (since deceased). But overall this felt like a pointless exercise.

To cite just one glaring boner, Garner is talking about the fine costars he had on MAVERICK. Of course Roger Moore is not mentioned, as his participation was ephemeral, but the documentary at this point didn't even name-drop let alone cover Jack Kelly, an example of no-nothingism I hate to see -shoddy research and just plain crappy filmmaking in my opinion.

Similarly, Ernest Borgnine (still alive and kicking thank God) mentions how a single TV Western guest shot of his was fondly remembered and often mentioned to him by fans for a long time after. Do we get to see a clip from this now (40-plus years later) obscure episode? Of course not.

Beginning with THE CISCO KID, I was a fanatical fan of TV Westerns, not just the famous ones mentioned here. I never missed an episode of personal favorites, like Peter Breck in BLACK SADDLE, Stuart Whitman in CIMARRON STRIP, Jock Mahoney & X Brands in YANCY DERRINGER, Eric Fleming & Clint Eastwood in RAWHIDE and Will Hutchins as SUGARFOOT, to name just a few.

I was plenty surprised to see RAWHIDE, HAVE GUN-WILL TRAVEL, WANTED- DEAD OR ALIVE and WAGON TRAIN completely omitted here. I'm guessing in the former case that Boettcher was unable to wrangle an interview with Clint, but these holes are ridiculous. Similarly, a lengthy segment on Sam Peckinpah was welcome, but completely screwed up: it didn't mention at all his brilliant THE WESTERNER starring Brian Keith, even in passing. I once got to see the entire WESTERNER on the big screen in 16MM at Lincoln Center and it held up spectacularly after 40 years.

So I have to give Boettcher a flunking grade. Instead of enlightening the viewer, his shoddy effort is merely misleading with its copious errors of omission, improper emphasis and just downright lazy approach. His striving for "significance", e.g., Roosevelt Grier regarding breakthroughs in race relations typified by DANIEL BOONE, or the hooray for America tone of the so-called emergence of latinos and latinas on THE HIGH CHAPPARAL are laughably ridiculous. Why not interview a Hispanic or Black activist, or God forbid, a Native American activist like Russell Means on the real and ongoing shortcomings of TV employment for minorities (beyond the obvious stereotyping)? Or maybe the stereotypical depictions of Asian Americans in any Western episode dealing with, say, the Transcontinental Railroad.


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