Gunsmoke

‘Gunsmoke’: The Real Reason the Classic Western Was Canceled After 20 Years

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Despite being widely popular, here is the real reason why the classic western TV show “Gunsmoke” was canceled after 20 years without a final episode.

According to ScreenRant, “Gunsmoke” made its debut in 1955 and quickly became a success. However, the show’s popularity went down a bit after the first decade. When CBS planned to cancel the western series, there was reportedly a public backlash. This caused the network to continue airing the show.

However, following “Gunsmoke’s” season 20 finale in March 1975, CBS decided to opt out of renewing the long-running series and replace it with the “Mary Tyler Moore Show” spin-off, “Rhoda.”

The media outlet further observed that CBS likely felt “Gunsmoke” just became too outdated for the network. That’s why CBS decided to replace the show with more of a contemporary show. This was despite the show’s popularity. However, the series never had a proper series finale.

ScreenRant called the season 20 finale “The Sharecroppers” a more “comedic” way to end the series and was not intended to be a series finale. More than a decade after CBS gave “Gunsmoke” the ax, James Arness returned for the 1987 TV movie “Gunsmoke: Return to Dodge.” Although the TV movie did not lead to a TV series revival, Arness did make appearances in four other “Gunsmoke” films. The films included were “Gunsmoke: The Long Ride” and “Gunsmoke: One Man’s Justice.”

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‘Gunsmoke’ Star James Arness Once Reflected on the Start of His Acting Career & Memories of John Wayne

In a 2006 interview, James Arness reflected on the start of his acting career and what made him leave his hometown of Minneapolis for Los Angeles.

“A friend of mine said we ought to go to Los Angeles in Christmas 1945,” Arness recalled. “There was snow on the ground in Minneapolis when we left. We got hooked by Los Angeles… I remember when I left for Los Angeles, my mother said I would not be coming back. She was intuitive.”

Also speaking about his memories of fellow western actor, John Wayne, Arness called Wayne the man. “He was one of a kind,” Arness declared. “He convinced me to take the Gunsmoke series. The other day, I was watching one of my favorite Wayne films: ‘The Quiet Man’ with Maureen O’Hara, [and] Ward Bond. Another great Wayne film is ‘The Searchers.’”

In regards to the modern film industry, Arness said that while the films are not his kind of movies and don’t appeal to him. “I don’t connect to Hollywood of today and I don’t know the new generation of actors,” he said.

Arness died of natural causes in his Brentwood home in Los Angeles on June 3, 2011. He was 88 years old at the time.

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