Can You Name the TV Western From a One-Sentence Description?
By: Ian Fortey
About This Quiz
Westerns were one of the earliest genres to hit both radio and television. Western-themed magazines and books had been popular with audiences for many years prior to this as well, and of course, that all makes sense. The Wild West was not that long ago, relatively speaking, and really captured the imagination of people all across the country. The West gave birth to the America we know today, from that sense of freedom and exploration. It represented the birth of the whole nation, of America finding its way and deciding what ideals would represent it. Of course, there's a heck of a lot of excitement, mystery and action mixed in too. You have to keep people interested.
Though Westerns aren't as popular in modern times as they were in the past, the genre hasn't died by any measure. Westerns are still produced and still enjoyed by audiences every year. In fact, many Westerns offer stories and performances that are praised for their stellar quality. If you're a true fan of the Western you must be familiar with some of the best of the best that history has had to offer. Why not check out some simple, one-sentence descriptions to test your knowledge and tell us how many you know!
This was the longest-running prime-time drama ever! What was it called?
"Gunsmoke" ran from 1955 to 1975 and there were 635 episodes, which is a heck of a lot of TV. Of course, it has nothing on daytime dramas like "Guiding Light." That show was for 57 years. Toss in its origins as a radio show and it ran for 72 years. That's intense.
Ronald Reagan hosted this show and also starred in 21 episodes. Do you know what it was?
"Death Valley Days" was an anthology series like "The Twilight Zone" only about cowboy stuff. The show was originally hosted by a character called The Old Ranger until he was replaced by Ronald Reagan in 1964.
Science fiction and Western collided in this show that also seemed very James Bondish. What was it?
"The Wild Wild West" was dreamed up as a way to keep people interested in Westerns when the more traditional versions of the genre were failing a bit. As a result, it also mixed a lot of spy stuff and sci-fi stuff into the plot. It was also made into a movie starring Will Smith.
Guest stars were common on this show that was sort of an anthology but always based in the same basic setting. What was it?
"Wagon Train" was on for nearly 10 years from 1957 to 1965. It was centered around the idea of an actual wagon train traveling across the country and each episode focused on someone new in the train, which was a massive thing full of several thousand people.
Little Joe and Hoss were characters on this show. Do you know what it was called?
"Bonanza " was the second-longest running Western on television after "Gunsmoke." The show famously dressed all the characters in the exact same clothes from the 4th season onward so that it'd be easier to use old footage to fill in scenes.
HBO created this show about a lawless mining town in the days after Custer's Last Stand. What was it called?
"Deadwood" was one of HBO's most popular shows and received a ton of critical acclaim during its short run. "Deadwood" won several Emmy awards and even a Peabody award, which just sounds really prestigious, doesn't it?
If you like trains, you'd probably enjoy this AMC series about the construction of the First Transcontinental Railroad. What did they call it?
"Hell on Wheels" is supposed to follow the lives of those folks working on the railroad in a tent city. While the show takes place across the Great Plains, it was mostly filmed in Canada.
In nine seasons audiences never learned the name of the main character, the foreman of the Shiloh Ranch, on this show. What was it called?
"The Virginian" was renamed "The Men from Shiloh" in its final season and has a connection to "The Simpsons." The character of Troy McClure on "The Simpsons" was based on real-life actor Doug McClure, whose most famous role was on "The Virginian."
This show followed the adventures of a man called Paladin, a wild west mercenary. What was it?
"Have Gun - Will Travel" was essentially a show about a hero for hire. Robert Heinlein wrote a science fiction story called "Have Spacesuit - Will Travel" that came out at basically the same time, as well.
A town marshal, his two brothers and Doc Holliday fight a gang of criminals in a lawless town in this show. What was it?
"The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp" followed the famous story of legendary lawman Wyatt Earp, his brothers Virgil and Morgan and their gambling, gunfighting dentist friend Doc Holliday. The show made the Colt Buntline pistol famous as a toy, even though the real Earp never used the weapon.
Frank Morgan was a sheriff in two seasons of this show and then a US marshal in the next two seasons. Do you know it?
"Sheriff of Cochise" started as a show about the sheriff of Cochise County, hence the clever name. The show was later changed to "United States Marshal" after Desi Arnaz Sr., who ran the studio, felt it would be better if the main character could travel all over the state of Arizona.
A female sharpshooter and her brother were the central characters of this show. Name it!
"Annie Oakley" followed the fictionalized adventures of real-life sharpshooter Annie Oakley. The real Annie became famous when she was only 15 after winning a shooting competition and then joining Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show.
In many ways, this show is a Western superhero show that featured a masked vigilante and his sidekick fighting villains. What was it?
"The Lone Ranger" has been made and remade numerous times. The most successful television version of the show aired from 1949 to 1957. When the show ended, it was followed up with a couple of theatrically released movies.
Cattle drivers, including Clint Eastwood, were the main characters on this show. What was it called?
"Rawhide" was the show that made Clint Eastwood a household name. He portrayed a character named Rowdy Yates who joined series star Eric Fleming in solving a variety of problems ranging from cattle rustlers to hungry wolves.
Gambling and comedy were cornerstones of this Western starring James Garner as a cardsharp. What was it called?
"Maverick" was remade into a movie starring Mel Gibson and Jodie Foster many years later, and it also featured the star of the original series, James Garner, in a supporting role.
Arguably this show was a martial arts Western about a traveling Shaolin monk. Do you know what it was?
"Kung Fu" starred David Carradine as traveling Shaolin monk Kwai Chang Kaine. Bruce Lee was supposed to star in the show according to several sources, and Lee himself claimed he pitched the same basic idea before it was hijacked by Warner Bros.
The life and times of the Ingalls family were depicted on this show. What was it?
"Little House on the Prairie" was an adaptation of the series of books written by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Those books were based on her own life growing up as part of a pioneer family.
Steve McQueen starred on this series about a bounty hunter who was a veteran of the Civil War. Do you know what it was?
"Wanted: Dead or Alive" was the show that launched Steve McQueen's career. He went on to become a fairly big movie star. It was also similar in plot to "Dog the Bounty Hunter," which is weird notably because Dog is a reality show that was made decades later.
A special agent working for a bank that still exists was the central character of this show. Do you know it?
"Tales of Wells Fargo" was based around the real-life Wells Fargo detective Fred Dodge. Back in the day, banks needed to have their own lawmen because people really had a thing for stealing before law enforcement was widespread.
This show chronicled the adventures of a real-life folk hero and pioneer. Name it!
"Daniel Boone" was loosely based around tales of real-life frontiersman Daniel Boone. Because of the nature of the stories told about him, you actually need to do some research to separate the true stories from the random things people made up.
A boy and his dog help the soldiers of Fort Apache in this show. Do you know it?
"The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin" was a bit of a Lassie-meets-Western show that was filmed on an infamously small budget. The how routinely recycled actors and it's alleged that in some scenes the same actor would literally be in a fight with himself - one part as a soldier and one part as an Apache.
The opening of this show featured the main character blasting super fast rounds from his weapon, a signature move of the character. Do you know what it was called?
"The Rifleman" famously wielded a modified Winchester Model 1892 that the producers had tweaked to allow for rapid firing as a bit of a gimmick to get audiences interested.
A hero and his sidekick travel the West helping random people in a very "Lone Ranger" way even though this isn't the "Lone Ranger." What is it?
"The Cisco Kid" followed the adventures of Cisco and his sidekick Pancho. The show got a movie reboot in the 1990s with Jimmy Smits as the Cisco Kid and Cheech Marin from "Cheech and Chong" as Pancho.
Laramie, Wyoming is the setting for this show that focused on the town's marshal and his young deputy. What was it?
'Lawman" ran from 1958 to 1962 and was typical of Westerns at the time. Aside from a large number of famous guest stars including DeForest Kelley and Sammy Davis Jr., it also recycled scripts from other Westerns on the same network in an effort to save money on writers.
A female doctor from Boston moves to Colorado to set up practice in this show. What was it called?
"Dr.Quinn, Medicine Woman" ran for a total of six seasons. The show's star, Jane Seymour, didn't even sign on until literally the day before production began on the pilot. She read the script in one day and was on board.
This series was based on a Western movie from 1960 which in turn was based on a samurai movie from 1954. What was it?
"The Magnificent Seven" was based on the movie of the same name, which in turn was a Western remake of Akira Kurosawa's "Seven Samurai." the show featured actors Michael Biehn, famous for his roles in "Aliens" and "Terminator" and Ron Perlman from "Hellboy."
"Lost" producer Carlton Cuse made this weird sci-fi/comedy/western show that starred Bruce Campbell. What was it called?
"The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr." was an extremely quirky show that only lasted one season and featured Bruce Campbell from the "Evil Dead" series in the lead role. The show included elements of time travel and comedy, making it pretty rare for a Western.
Kris Kristofferson narrated this show which didn't follow the life of a main character, it followed a gun. What was it called?
"Dead Man's Gun" chose to follow the titular gun from episode to episode rather than any specific main character. It was a bit of a "Twilight Zone" type show as the gun seemed to be cursed and often brought bad luck to whoever owned it.
Richard Dean Anderson from "MacGyver" and John de Lancie, famous for playing "Star Trek's" Q starred in this show. Name it!
"Legend" was another sci-fi Western that lasted a single season and featured John de Lancie as a kind of knock off Nikola Tesla character who creates unusual inventions and experiments while Richard Dean Anderson played a fraudulent hero.
Every episode of this show was filmed in Spain even though it takes place in 19th century California. Do you know what it was?
"Zorro" was one of several shows to bear the name, but this version began in 1990 and featured a pretty impressive array of guest stars including Jesse "The Body" Ventura, Andre the Giant, Adam West and Warwick "The Leprechaun" Davis.
"The story of a horse ... and a boy who loves him" was how this show was advertised. What was it called?
"Fury" was the name of the show and also the horse on the show who befriends a boy named Joey. Like Lassie but with hooves, Fury would find a way to save the day when trouble started brewing every episode.
Widow Victoria Barkley and her children operate a ranch in this show from the late '60s. What was it?
"The Big Valley" starred veteran actor Barbara Stanwyck as the central character and featured co-stars such as Lee Majors and Linda Evans. The show was based on a historical ranch that's currently covered by the Comanche Reservoir.
In 1949, this became the first network Western on TV. Do you know it?
"Hopalong Cassidy" was based on a character from short stories written in the early 1900s. The character got the nickname as a result of being shot in the leg, which makes it a weird mix of funny and rather insensitive.
A gunfighter has to raise his sister's four children in this show. Do you know what it was?
"Paradise" followed the story of Ethan Allen Cord and the four children left in his care by his sister. After two seasons, the show was tweaked and renamed "Guns of Paradise," but it wasn't enough to prevent the show's cancellation.
What's the name of this show that fictionalized the adventures of a real-life marshal and gambler?
"Bat Masterson" was a real person named Bartholemew William Barclay "Bat" Masterson who actually came from Quebec. He was a lawman, but also a professional gambler and a gunfighter. You need a diverse skill set on the Old West.
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