Posted by: gillarbuthnott | March 2, 2014

Whatever Happened to the Western?

silva_westernYou’ll have to bear with the convoluted thought process that led to this post: I was reading a profile of Sandra Bullock in my Sunday paper, and it mentioned that she had been married to a man called Jesse James, so I thought of The Outlaw Jesse James, then realised I meant  The Outlaw Josey Wales… where did all the westerns go? Anyone my sort of age who watched television in the UK (or presumably the USA) when growing up could still hum the theme tune from Bonanza, and it was one show among many: Rawhide, Wagon Train, then later The Virginian, The High Chaparral, Alias Smith and Jones and, I’m sure, others that I’ve forgotten. The last one I’m aware of on TV was the magnificent Lonesome Dove.

The cinema was full of them as well: The Magnificent Seven, Clint’s spaghetti westerns and Unforgiven – even Paint Your Wagon! So where did they all go, and why? (Yes, I know they re-made Lone Ranger last year, but… really??)

They all seemed to be replaced by cop/detective shows, but I don’t understand why westerns became so unfashionable so quickly. As with any other genre of fiction, you could use the basic idea as a structure on which to build anything you fancied. That didn’t suddenly change. Did we all get tired of horses? Or stetsons? Or long skirts?

Am I the only saddo who misses them?

I’m heartened however, by the appearance in print of Caroline Lawrence’s Western Mysteries, her new series of children’s books. Maybe I’m not quite alone in my love of westerns…



  1. Can I send you in the direction of Tanya Landman’s Apache, and her forthcoming Buffalo Soldier? Perhaps not for reasons of nostalgia, but to reassure you that there are other writers out there similarly transfixed by that world.

    • I shall be on the look out for them! Thankyou.

  2. I appreciate your post and wanted to follow-up with some information & links you may find of interest. I actually teach a Western genre class at the college level and my students learn about two ongoing Western TV series….AMC’s Hell on Wheels (2011 to Present) and A&E’s Longmire (2012 to Present).

    Hell on Wheels is based around the post-Civil War construction of the Union Pacific railroad and Longmire is a contemporary Western set in Wyoming. Here are links to info about each:

    I hope you find something you like to watch! 🙂
    All the best,

    • Thanks for the information Chad. I will definitely have a look at these – it’s good to know there’s still life in the western after all!

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