“Hopalong Cassidy” (1949-51): The first small-screen appearance of the genre was really just reedited cuts of old “B” movies, but it put lead William Boyd and the new NBC TV network on the map.
“Gunsmoke” (1955-75): TV’s longest-running drama owed much of its success to leading man James Arness, a Minneapolis native who believed Minnesota Nice was best delivered with a loaded gun, as U.S. Marshal Matt Dillon.
“Maverick” (1957-62): How the West was fun. James Garner and his brothers weren’t the fastest on the draw, unless you were talking about a quippy comeback.
“Bonanza” (1959-73): The western became a family affair with Lorne Greene spending more time herding his randy sons than cattle. The series often took on social issues such as substance abuse and domestic violence, a precursor of things to come.
“The Wild Wild West” (1965-69) Sci-fi gadgets came in handy during this tongue-in-cheek adventure series that owed as much to Jules Verne as it did to Louis L’Amour.
“Kung Fu” (1972-75) Many believe Bruce Lee came up with the concept of this series, about a martial artist in the American Old West. Instead, the role went to Hollywood-born David Carradine.
“Lonesome Dove” (1989): Larry McMurtry’s novel comes to life with the help of Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones as former Texas Rangers too kindhearted — and too stubborn — to realize they’re past their prime. One of TV’s all-time best miniseries.
“Deadwood” (2004-06): The genre swung into R-rated territory with the kind of bloodshed and vulgar language that Matt Dillon would never have tolerated. There were only 36 episodes, but its *$#@ impact lives on.
“Godless” (2017): This underappreciated gem paid homage to old westerns, but by putting female characters at the forefront, it carved out important territory of its own.