I think I see your problem. You have this list. It’s a list of people you need/want to buy a Christmas gift for. The trouble is that they’re into home theatre, and you don’t know Star Trek from Star Wars. You couldn’t tell a Wolf Man from a Wolverine. And you always thought that Paranormal Activity was something too kinky to talk about. Fortunately, Upcomingdiscs has come to the rescue every Christmas with our Gift Guide Spotlights. These gift guides ARE NOT paid advertisements. We take no money to publish them. The kinds of things we recommend here are things I would be delighted to find under the tree.
CBS still has the highest rated dramas on television. There have been quite a few good DVD sets from the network in 2019. Here’s a look at my recommendations. Part One will deal with some classic shows that CBS continues to put out.
This year CBS has released the 14th and 15th seasons. Just in time for Christmas, they’ve added the 16th and 17th seasons. For seasons 16 and 17 they’ve finally released them each together in one set instead of the half-season sets most of the years are collected in.
The setting for Gunsmoke was the by-now-famous Dodge City, circa 1870’s. Phrases like “get out of Dodge” would enter the popular lexicon as a result of this resilient series. Marshall Dillon (Arness) was charged with keeping the peace in Dodge City. The only other character to see the entire 20-year run was kindly Doc Adams (Stone). Star Trek’s own Doc, Leonard McCoy, took many of his traits from Doc Adams. He was the humanitarian of the city, always looking to help someone. Like McCoy, he had a taste for bourbon and a soft heart underneath a rather gruff exterior and was always ready with free advice. Dillon’s love interest throughout most of the series was Miss Kitty Russell (Blake). While there were certainly a few romantic undercurrents, the romance never came to fruition. Miss Kitty was a prostitute on the radio and was likely one here as well, but CBS chose to underplay that aspect of her character as a “saloon girl”. Finally, Dillon’s faithful sidekick deputy was Chester (Weaver). Chester often found himself in trouble and was the naïve son figure to Dillon.
Gunsmoke is the longest-running scripted live-action television show in history. The series ran from 1955 to 1975. At first it was a half-hour black-and-white show that evolved into a color hour by 1967. It actually started before the days of television, premiering on radio in 1952. Then it was William Conrad as the tough-as-nails Marshall Matt Dillon. When television came into its own, Gunsmoke made the jump to the bright living room box and made history. Westerns would ride across our small square screens for the next three decades, making it the most successful genre of that time, and it was Gunsmoke that started it all. The television version of Gunsmoke was originally conceived as a vehicle for John Wayne, who opted to remain in movies. Yet it was Wayne himself who suggested James Arness, and it turned out to be a career for the one-time “carrot” monster from The Thing. Gunsmoke started before all of the big westerns and was around when most of them had departed.
This was the show that keeps on going. While Dick Wolf managed to match the 20 years, Gunsmoke still has more episodes than any scripted television series in history. At 635 episodes, it’s proved its lasting power. Only The Simpsons beats it, so it’s the longest-running non-animated show in television history. We’re now only three seasons away from having the entire series out on DVD. That’s going to be nice to see it all up there on your video shelves. “I’ve been waiting a mighty long time for this.”
Early in the year we got the ninth season of Bonanza, and just in time for Christmas we get Season 10 in those usual half-season sets. Amazon often bundles them together, and that’s your best bet.
Three-time widower Ben Cartwright (Greene) runs his famous Ponderosa Ranch with the aid of his three grown sons from three different mothers. There’s Little Joe (Landon), Adam (Roberts), and Hoss (Blocker). Set some time in the mid 1800’s, this long-running series followed the family’s many exploits.
In the late 1950’s, westerns accounted for six of the top ten programs on TV. Only Gunsmoke had a longer run than Bonanza. From 1959 to 1973, Ben Cartwright and his boys rode across the small screen. Years later in syndication the series re-emerged as Ponderosa, and a handful of TV movies continued the tale into the 90’s.We never have grown tired of the genre that gave us such heroes as John Wayne and Clint Eastwood.
Unlike many of the 1960’s Western television shows, Bonanza was all about the characters. You rarely saw a gunfight. There was often a bit of fisticuffs, but usually it ended with a lesson that violence never pays. The show prided itself on using the Western genre to deliver a family kind of show, and it’s no surprise that series star Michael Landon would use many of the same kinds of stories and lessons on his own Little House On The Prairie. The Cartwrights are always helping widows, the wrongly accused, and the local Indian population. That help often lands them in hot water.
CBS started to pack in some extras in the previous release, but this one goes back to a bare-bones kind of title. There are promos and original ads but very little else in this collection. Again Season 10 is split into two releases. Look for a combo pack, and you’ll get all 30 episodes on eight discs. Do I wish CBS would release them together? Absolutely. But you might put up with it to have these classic shows on your video shelf. “At least that’s what I decided.”