I grew up listening and watching the radio and television series called Gunsmoke. I was bored with it at the time as I thought it was old hat so to speak. My love of science fiction runs deep from even my pre-school years. Both my parents appreciate science fiction as the movies I was most eager to watch as a child was of course Star Wars, Star Trek, The Last Starfighter, Tron, Dune, and I even snuck in Bladerunner and Alien at a friend’s house.
This assignment has especially given me a re-appreciation for the genre and the effects it had on American culture and society. While I was almost forced to listen to little vinyl copies of Gunsmoke while I had play time I rarely used to listen to it but listening to just a couple radio episodes today really made me understand why it was so good. With radio of course your ears are your eyes so every sound meant something and there was no stop to the sound which at times left me wanting to over my ears but the stories were great and totally different from one another.
Moving onto the television series that holds records, Gunsmoke again holds some serious substance that I ignored until this assignment. Watching the episodes and reading of the 20 season expanse was informative but also watching the change in how the series changed over the course of society changing fascinated me. I’m not a sociology major but understand the basic concepts and how current events and society changes what we see on our televisions. It happens even more so today than ever; but with Gunsmoke the characters themselves changed slowly over the course of the series to fit a seeming expectation where in the early to mid-70’s many broadcasts were made in such a way to discourage bad behavior and enforce a sense of morals and ethics. Similarly, you can look at the Simpsons and see that in its earlier years the focus was on Bart because the show was directed towards adolescents to teenagers as the series progressed those adolescents and teenagers became adults. Uh oh, their audience had grown up; but a simple shift from Bart to Homer now it’s directed towards adults that relate more with Homer and his comedy and Bart more of the growing pains of parenthood.
Hollywood has tried to change deep parts of human society with TV shows and they do the same today but I’d say that today it’s more tipping the hat to an ideal or an ethical or moral belief in an attempt to change it or enforce it. But no matter how you spin it Marshal Matt Dillon (William Conrad) influenced how people believed the West truly was in the mid to late 1800s and he was posted as what a lawman should be. His moral character and dedication to the people of Dodge City was unquestionable and in my humble opinion utterly boring for a main character. The earlier seasons where much more interesting as Marshal Dillon actually showed some conflicting character qualities that built his character in my opinion because it showed the conflict of being a man in a place of power and how easily it can be abused. Later seasons I don’t feel that was forgotten rather shifted to focus more on driving home a social agenda.
Don’t think that I just watched all 20 seasons. Please tear me apart as I’m basing my opinions on a few episodes both radio and TV and looking at the social shifts in America from the mid-50s to the mid-70s and I’m extremely biased towards science fiction. In fact the best science fiction to hit TV was based partly on the western style of television and the main character in that TV series, again in my opinion, was the most diverse and truly authentic characters ever created. Let’s see how many of my fellow fanboys and girls can guess what show I’m talking about and who without looking it up… miss that show. Netflix binge tonight!