In the age of social media and self-driving cars, the TV Western may seem like a relic from the past, but don't be fooled, there are still some really cool programs about the American frontier gracing our TV screens in every format. And even if they're not the typical shoot-em-up Cowboy Westerns you think of when you think of an Old Western, they're still some of the most popular shows of our time ("Breaking Bad," anyone?).
If you look at any list of the longest-running TV shows in American history, you're bound to find a slew of Westerns on there. That's not because people used to like Westerns and now they don't. It's because the TV Western has all the makings of great TV: sex, drugs, drama, violence, action, adventure and more. They're like soap operas with superheroes with cowboys and Indians mixed in. Some of them have even gone a step further and added supernatural or sci-fi elements (Have you seen "Westworld" yet?).
If you consider yourself a Hollywood buff, you can't ignore the TV Western. They're some of the most famous shows worldwide, giving popularity to some of the most iconic stars in Hollywood, and birthing some of the most classic cinematic techniques in cinema history. Put your skills to the test and and let's see how much you actually know about TV.
This four-episode mini-series ran in 1989 and was based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Larry McMurtry. It went on to win seven Emmys and was considered by many to be the role of a lifetime for Robert Duvall, who later went on to solidify his fame alongside Al Pacino in "The Godfather."
Jayne Seymour played the title character for this show that ran for six seasons in more than 100 countries and spawned two television movies. She considered it one of her proudest projects, but she actually signed on to the role with just one night's notice because her business manager lost all her money and accrued $9 million in debt. She told her agent she would do anything that was offered.
Many people consider "Deadwood" to be the antithesis of the old western genre. It featured vulgar language, vicious brutality, and blurred the lines between the good and bad guys. It went on to win eight Emmys in its two-year reign.
No matter how old you are, you've probably heard the phrase, "Who shot J.R.?" It stemmed from one of the most iconic episodes in television history about the feuding Ewing family and their oil company, Ewing Oil. It's one of the top five longest-running TV shows in American history.
"Gunsmoke" was the longest-running Western in TV history and until 2018, when surpassed by the "Simpsons," it was the longest-running scripted show in TV history. It ran for 635 episodes and raked in countless awards.
The laid-back gambler Bret Maverick (Garner) would rather use his smooth talk and charm to get out of sticky situations than have to partake in a gunfight. The show ran for five years and was known for spoofing other top Westerns of the time.
The protagonist of this show, "The Rifleman" (Connors), was a single dad who used his customized Winchester rifle to dole out justice while he patrolled his ranch. He was able to teach his son (Crawford) some valuable life lessons along the way.
Fresh off the success of the movie, "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," producers thought it'd be wise to create a similar story for TV audiences. They came up with this show starring two outlaws who made a shady deal with the governor and had to stay alive long enough to see it through.
This show ran for five seasons and the story picked up immediately after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. It showed the life of workers, mercenaries, prostitutes and others during construction of the Union Pacific Railroad.
Fresh off the martial arts craze, East meets West in this mash-up of two genres as a Shaolin monk Caine (Carradine) roams the American frontier in search of his brother. Caine helps the oppressed and resolves issues peacefully until he has to show off his martial arts skills.
This classic Western ran for eight seasons on two different networks and was inspired by a 1950 John Ford movie called "Wagon Master." Part of its popularity was due to its stellar cast and big-name guest appearances from stars like John Wayne and Bette Davis.
The name for the show, "Have Gun, Will Travel" was based on the inscription carved into Boone's character's (Paladin) business card that read in full: “Have Gun, Will Travel. Wire Paladin, San Francisco.” His going rate was $1,000.
Bonanza is the second-longest-running Western in American TV history, consisting of 431 episodes over 14 seasons. The show centered around the Cartwright family and their 1,000-square mile Ponderosa Ranch. It is regarded as one of the greatest U.S. TV shows of all time.
Many viewers consider this show one of the most cinematic Westerns on television. This long cattle drive is full of strong subject matter, and although the cast was full of stars, it's most remembered for Clint Eastwood's role as right hand man to the boss.
Television audiences showed a revived love for Westerns when this neo-western about a high school teacher turned meth dealer took the country by storm. "Breaking Bad" ran for five seasons and picked up 16 Emmy wins and 58 nominations.
"The Lone Ranger" was the highest rated TV program for ABC in the 1950s, and its characters are still popular today. In 2013, Disney revived the iconic duo of the Lone Ranger and Tonto for a big screen movie featuring Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer.
This science fiction Western ran for four seasons in the late 1960s and spawned two TV movies a decade later. The show's creator likened it to James Bond on horseback, and in 1999, Will Smith starred in a big screen remake of a similar name.
In 2016, HBO decided to remake the 1973 movie "Westworld" into a TV show. The story follows a technologically advanced, Western-themed amusement park run by robots that malfunction and begin killing human visitors.
This black and white show aired for six seasons totaling 229 episodes and was loosely based on the life of real-life marshal, Wyatt Earp. Although the events were only loosely based on Earp's real life, the timeline of those events followed his life almost exactly.
Netflix got into the Western genre with this seven-episode limited series that earned a couple Emmys for stellar performances and outstanding music. It was also named one of the 10 best shows of 2017 by multiple publications.
Star of this show, Chuck Norris, served in the United States Air Force and holds black belts in Brazilian jiu jitsu and Judo. The show aired in the 1990s, but the popularity of Norris was resurrected in the mid-2000s when "Chuck Norris Facts" took over the Internet.
Based on the children's books of the same name, ratings for this show plummeted so low in its second season it almost got canceled. It was moved from Wednesday to Monday nights instead and ended up airing for nine seasons.
The masked man - Don Diego by day, Zorro by night - owned the Thursday night time slot from 1957 - 1961 but was eventually canceled over legal disputes. The legend of Zorro has lived on, however, mostly because of a couple remakes featuring Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta Jones.
This mini-series that ran from 1976 - 1979 recycled some themes and content from the classic Western, "Gunsmoke," which was a radio and eventually TV series. This series starred James Arness, who starred in "Gunsmoke," and the first shot of the title sequence was also used in a "Gunsmoke" episode.
This series ran for four seasons on ABC, and although the studio had also created the movie, "Sugarfoot," the series had nothing to do with it. This show was actually based on a 1954 Western titled, "The Boy From Oklahoma."
You may not be able to recognize a young Stephen Baldwin and Josh Brolin starring in this show about a group of young Pony Express riders. Recruitment ads for the Express read: "Wanted: Young, skinny, wiry fellows not over 18. Must be expert riders, willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred"
Bruce Campbell played a Harvard Law graduate who decided to venture out and track down members of a notorious gang responsible for killing his father. Julius Carry played his one-time rival, Lord Bowler.
For two seasons this show followed rustlers and bank robbers as they got in and out of trouble. One of the show's stars, Peter Brown, actually used his real horse, named Amigo, for the show.
This supernatural Western is based on the comic book series of the same name. Its first season aired in 2016 and its fourth season is due to air sometime in 2019. Wynonna is the great great-granddaughter of Wyatt Earp and she battles unworldly creatures as she seeks justice.
This classic Western ran for nine seasons totaling 249 episodes on NBC, making it the third-longest-running Western in TV history. It was also the first 90-minute Western series to air on television.
This show that aired for six seasons from 2012 - 2017 centers around Walt Longmire, a sheriff investigating major crimes in the fictional Absaroka County, Wyoming. The series is based on the mystery novels written by Craig Johnson. Walt Longmire appears in 20 of the books.
This show ran for four seasons and centered around the widow (Stanwyck) of a wealthy rancher, his illegitimate son (Majors) and her family as they fought off bank robbers, horse thieves, revolutionaries and land grabbers. The show was loosely based on a real, 30,000-acre ranch called The Hill Ranch.
For three seasons Steve McQueen starred as a bounty hunter who doled out justice with a sawed-off rifle as he roamed the Wild West. The actual gun he used was a 1892 Winchester rifle even though the series was set in the 1870s.
For four seasons, viewers watched the Cannon family operate the High Chaparral Ranch in the Arizona Territory during the 1870s. The show centered around rancher Big John (Erickson), who aimed to establish his cattle empire amid Indian hostility.
A la The Lone Ranger, The Cisco Kid and his sidekick, Pancho, roamed the old west righting wrongs and fighting injustice wherever they could find it. The show aired for six seasons starting in 1950 and it was the first TV series to be shot in color even though broadcasts were still in black and white. Most didn't see it in color until 1960.