The Two Classes Of Western TV Shows

There are two very distinct types of western TV shows.

There is the simple good guy vs. bad guy show where the hero knows his duty well (and it is not articulated or debated why it is his duty) and he does it–unhesitatingly, unfaltering, and with no inner contentions, questions, or struggles.  A perfect example of that is The Lone Ranger (as portrayed by Clayton Moore). These kind are especially suited to children and builds a good moral foundation besides being loads of fun for young and old alike!


The second kind of western show is the kind where the main character (or in some cases a secondary character) has not necessarily thought through the moral situations that arise and doesn’t have all of the answers–or has the wrong ones. He is not sure or is not right in his convictions and often is perplexed and struggles with how to act and what is just. Or, if he does know what is right he struggles with applying it due to personal feelings involved. At some point during the show he becomes convinced about where his duty lies and what is right (often through a well-spoken work of advice, and that’s where good quotes come from 🙂 ) and stands up like a man, often despite hardship, pain, and personal feelings to the contrary and does what is just and right regardless of that.  The few Big Valley shows that I have seen are the excellent example of this kind of show.



A short way to summarize what I call “A” and “B” western TV shows

  • “B” episodes show what is right and wrong, and shows the good guy win by doing right.
  • “A” episodes teach/show why it is right or wrong, and why the hero had to respond to the moral test the way he did.

James_Drury_The_Virginian_1971Both types are good, both are fun, educational, and have their time and place.  My personal favorites are the “A” TV shows.  Surpassing mere entertainment, they are not simply passive viewing but actively provoke thought and conversation.  Sometimes they almost force the viewer to think and engage his mind (as in the case of “The Odyssey of Jubal Tanner” Big Valley episode where the good guys–the whole family whom the viewer respects–are split in their decisions of what is right and just and the viewer is sitting there puzzled trying to figure out which side is morally right)!

Of course the lessons and “truths” reached by the “A” folks are not always right– and in that way it is the more dangerous of the two kinds of shows as it can easily teach the viewers a lie. However it is also the more powerful because it can be deliberately teaching the truth in great stories and equipping people with principles that can be applied not just to those particular folks in the cow-town in the show, but to any situation in real life. One must be careful and critique the ideas and worldview being presented.


So here are a few old TV shows and the types they are:

Definite “B” shows

The Roy Rogers Show

The Lone Ranger

Range Ryder

The Gene Autry Show


Shows That Are In The Middle

Tales Of Wells Fargo

Cheyenne (at least the episodes that I have seen)


Shows That Have A Good Percentage of “A” Episodes

Big Valley (as far as I have seen)

The Rifleman

The Virginian

Daniel Boone


The reason for choosing the “A” and “B” labels was because the “B-Westerns” in the full-length films were almost always a simple, fun, good guys vs. bad guys while the “A-Westerns” were more about moral tests and challenges. A and B were not actually types of films but referred to the money spent on the production. B stood for budget originally, but almost became a synonym for a simple morality play.

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