Reviewing the recently released DVD sets of Volume One and Two of the 1962-63 Eighth Season of "Gunsmoke" on Mother's Day is particularly apt for reasons provided below. Incidentally, the American public had decided that eight was not enough regarding this awesome drama. This exceptionally extraordinary show's 20-year run inspired Kelsey "Frasier" Grammer to try to beat James "Marshal Matt Dillon" Arness' record of playing his character for that many years.
I had decided before watching "Gunsmoke" for this review and "Have Gun-Will Travel" for a review earlier this week that I did not like Westerns despite never having watched one. (The one obvious exception was loving the '60s Western sitcom "F Troop.") I had thought that they would have been boring and unduly violent for my taste. Boy, was I wrong.
As an aside, watching "Star Trek: The Next Generation" (TNG) roughly 20 years ago proved me similarly wrong regarding "Star Trek" specifically and science fiction generally. Long-time readers and you folks who only read my recent review of the Blu-ray release of "TNG" S4 and review of the Blu-rauy of "TNG's" "The Best of Both Worlds" know that I am one of the biggest fanboys out there.
The relevance of all this to Mother's Day is that moms all over the world telling kids that they do not know that they will not like something until they try it is an example of Mother often knowing best. Remember that when faced with eating the cold slimey cabbage-reeking concoction that I call cole slop, and admittedly have never tried, at the Mother's Day picnic later today.
In addition to giving Mom a nod on her special day, this review of "Gunsmoke" wraps up this week's coverage of "Western Spring" titles that are being released in May and June 2013.
As mentioned above, "Have Gun-Will Travel" the Final Seasons V1 and V2 were recently released. The Western mini-series "James A. Michener's Texas" was also recently released and received a positive review on this site. Next week's review of the upcoming DVD release of the sixth season of the sitcom "Laverne and Shirley" will mark the return of this site's focus on sitcoms, cartoons. sci-fi, and dramas.
The June 4, 2013 Sixth Season V1 and V1 DVD releases of the early Clint Eastwood Western series "Rawhide" will round out "Western Spring."
"Gunsmoke" focuses on the efforts of tall, handsome, and intelligent Marshal Dillon to keep and restore peace in 19th century Dodge City, Kansas. The little help from his friends that allows Dillon to get by includes goofy and not-so handsome Deputy Chester Goode serving as his gofer and providing highly amusing comic relief, Doc Adams patching up and healing upright citizens and scoundrels with equal dedication and compassion, and saloon owner Miss Kitty offering the great perspective of a truly wise independent frontier woman.
Seeing Dillon's relationship with Chester was particularly interesting because it provided the model for virtually every live-action and animated small-town sheriff-deputy relationship since then. Andy and Barney of "The Andy Griffith Show" were a well-known example, but even the short-lived '70s sitcom "Carter Country" had a very competent (if not so handsome) sheriff and cut but-no-so bright deputy.
Dillon's stronger interest in achieving justice, rather than merely upholding the law, is very appealing. Examples from the eighth season include not arresting a stableboy who apparently runs off with a ranch owner's horse to whom said boy has become attached, helping a half-breed 20-something whose violence against white men is somewhat justified escape mob justice, and overall acting based on his instincts regardless of whether it seems that someone committed the crime of which he or she is suspected.
An early eighth season episode is one of the best of the mind-blowing total of 38 hour-long ones from this season. The story of an feisty 18 year-old orphan accidentally injuring one of her keepers during the orphan's escape from that genuine 19th century sweatshop for parentless girls has the mix of drama and humor that makes great television. Special appeal relates to that character's similarities to Barbara Eden's portrayal of Jeannie in the sitcom "I Dream of Jeannie."
On breezing into town, the orphan unintentionally wreaks havoc due to the lethal combination of her lack of book or street smarts and burning desire to experience life. She prompts a couple of bar fights and inadvertently gets mixed up with a married man whose wife is about to give birth. Seeing Miss Kitty try to set this girl on the right path is a particularly nice scene. The girl's first trip to a saloon is one of the season's funniest.
For his part, Dillon shows the girl the proper compassion and provides everyone a predictable but still heart-warming happy ending.
Another good episode that involves a young, but less innocent, femme fatale has the daughter of a man who is dragging his offspring across the frontier try to trap Chester into marriage so that said (not so violent) femme can settle down. She would have gotten away with it to if not for that meddling marshal and his saloon owning friend.
Eighth season guest stars include Burt Reynolds as the aforementioned half-breed, an appearance by Adam West, and a couple of guest shots by Leonard Nimoy.
The bottom line is that "Gunsmoke" is an awesome show that continues enjoying popularity today, and the remastering of the 50 year-old production looks very clear. These attributes make it well worth adding to a DVD collection.
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