How the West was Lost “Recalling a Once Proud American TV Tradition”

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Time leaves nothing untouched and all of the matter and energy of the universe varies its state at some point, becoming something else as the endless process of transformative change asserts and reasserts itself. Mankind is the one and only creature we know of what actively seeks to preserve that which can and should be maintained for as long as it makes sense or is possible to do so. We supposedly cherish that which has meaning and let go of that which has outlived its day, hoping that we have made a wise decision as to what is embraced and what is renounced. Europeans have shown a tendency to preserve their past and to celebrate its significance in a manner that shows a respect for history and as such is praiseworthy. But Europe is an old continent with timeworn nations who have had to come to terms with consistent change throughout their long and proud history. America is a young nation on a continent that has seen its share of change, but we as a people tend not to extol the virtues of our past with the same kinds of reverence and with an eye towards curation in the manner of our wiser cousins. Like children do, we tend to always be on the watch for that which is fresh, that which is on the “cutting edge” and anything old and out of date is no longer worthy of our attention. Songs drop out of circulation on the airwaves faster than raindrops pattering on the sidewalk. Trends in education and health are modified, recycled and find their way round on the carousel at an absurdly brisk pace that beggars the question as to whether we really gave them a serious chance. And currents in visual media are one of those things that defies all logic sometimes as to what is popular and what disappears from the public diet. During the Golden Age of Television, soap operas and game shows once dominated the viewing landscape of network television, but they are becoming as scarce as the Grizzly Bear in the form in which they once flourished. But no type of television genre has seen its sun set in the cultural sky more than did the Western. Like the buffalo of yore, Westerns thundered across the plains that were the network programming schedule, but just as with the buffalo, perilous competition and relentless predation thinned their numbers and before long, Westerns followed that shaggy, robust beast of the prairies to the brink of extinction.
From TV’s inception in the late 1940s through the middle part of the 1970s, all the major networks ran any number of westerns in their lineups and as independent UHF TV stations proliferated through the late 1950s and all the way to the early 1970s, those channels picked up canceled shows or early runs of still successful brands and reran them for years.

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