Popular Culture Collectibles Reviews

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

I Spy, Gunsmoke, Have Gun, Will Travel and TV Westerns


As I’ve mentioned many times in past book and DVD reviews I love the TV series from the 1950s and 1960s-primarily because I was a young boy during those turbulent years.

A lot changed in the United States during those two decades and indeed, a lot changed around the world.

But, that’s subject for another time.

McFarland & Company, Inc. presents two books in its Classic series that offer a wide-spectrum of information on TV Westerns during the 1940s through the 1970s. 

In ‘Television Westerns Major and Minor Series 1946-1978’ author Richard West provides a short, alphabetically arranged listing of the Westerns seen on TV during these four decades.

Accompanied by photo,s the book includes short descriptions of each series along with interesting tidbits about their time slots, cast and storylines.

It’s a real treasure trove for any TV Western fan.

‘Television Western Players Of the Fifties’ from Everett Aaker is a large softbound book that is ‘A Biographical Encyclopedia Of All regular Cast Members In Western Series, 1949-1959’.

For a real meat and potato examination and elaboration on the actors and actresses starring in 1950s Westerns this book is filled with loads and loads of professional and personal information along with each actor or actress’s list of TV credits.

The granddaddy of all TV Westerns: Gunsmoke, is given a two-volume treatment in  SuzAnne Barabas and Gabor Barabas’ ‘Gunsmoke Volume 1 and 2, A Complete History and Analysis of the Legendary Broadcast Series with a Comprehensive Episode-by Episode Guide to Both the Radio and Television Programs’.

I could not have said it better myself!

Jam-packed with episode breakdowns, behind-the-scenes information, photos, biographies and listings this two-volume set is the ‘ultimate guide ‘ to the TV Western by which all other TV Westerns were compared.

It’s a wonderful excursion down Memory Lane that is sure to bring back fond memories.
One of my all-time favorite TV Westerns is Have Gun-Will Travel starring Richard Boone.

Unlike other TV Westerns of the time, Have Gun-Will Travel was a real showcase for Boone’s incredible acting ability.

The show offered more than bullets and fisticuffs and often delved into social issues, philosophy, religion and man’s struggles.

In ‘Art and Politics in Have Gun-Will Travel’ author Kathleen L. Spencer explores the TV Western series that was filled with ‘Ethical Drama’.

The book is more that a listing of episodes and credits it is an examination of the times the Have Gun-Will Travel was popular, its influences and most importantly how it reflected its time.  It makes for a fascinating and thought-provoking read.

The 1960s saw a plethora of TV Spy series brought about by the popularity of the James Bond films.

While many of the TV Spy series played it for laughs or the melodramatic and were ridiculously high-tech, I Spy, starring Bill Cosby and Robert Culp, took an entirely different approach.

To be sure it had its tongue-in-cheek and satirical moments but overall it took itself seriously and never sugar coated the dangerous spy profession.

I Spy was the first prime time TV series to star an African American actor.  While groundbreaking in its creation, race never played a part inn the series.  The show successfully sidestepped race and racism by ignoring both.

I Spy simply starred two men as spies-end of story.

In ‘I Spy, A History And Episode Guide To The Groundbreaking Television Series’ authors Marc Cushman and Linda J. LaRosa, have written a fascinating book filled with compelling information and filled with photos.

Learn how each episode came about, their content, censorship battles, actor and crew tweaks and changes, rewrites, locations and much more.

Robert Culp provides the foreword that leads into this thorough examination of the TV series that changed everything.