Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Big Audio Wednesday - Gunsmoke

Figured I'd have to get around to Gunsmoke eventually. It was a radio phenomenon that became a television phenomenon, the longest-running primetime show ever (at least until The Simpsons).

But if you've never been exposed to Gunsmoke, or if your only exposure (like mine) was the later seasons of the TV show, then you're in for a surprise. Gunsmoke was a relatively dark and edgy show on radio, with a surprisingly bitter main character in William Conrad's Matt Dillon.

I had a long hard time trying to pick an episode to post here, though. There's lots of good stuff in several of them, but few episodes seem to resolve well. And of course, there's no sci-fi or fantasy in any of them, except for one comic episode where a con man fools a few townspeople into thinking he's invented a "silver extender," a machine that can clone money.

I ultimately chose this episode, "Bum's Rush," just because it has so many of the elements of a classic Gunsmoke. Matt as the U.S. Marshall doing his job to the letter even as he seems to hate every moment of it, Doc rubbing his hands with glee over the prospect of violence in town because it means work for him, Matt facing off against his own neighbors as he also has to try to stop the bad guys, a conclusion that brings justice but not happiness.

Oh, and because it guest-stars John Dehner, a frequent player who also became a fixture of television. Always a guest-star, never a star, Dehner appeared in three episodes of the original Twilight Zone, as well as lesser science-fiction "classics" like Land of the Giants and "Day of the Dolphin."

So enjoy this episode of Gunsmoke from April 18, 1953.

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