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Monday, January 02, 2006

As the 1960's began, the popularity of the Western was beginning to wane. The violence factor was one issue, but it had also gotten to a point where there were just too many of them on television and the public was getting weary of the genre. Another factor was the emergence of another style that was rapidly catching on: the "smooth detective". New programs like "77 Sunset Strip" and "Peter Gunn" were examples of these new shows. Also, by this time the ratings services like Nielsen were becoming more sophisticated. Not only could they now measure how many households were watching particular programs, but they could break down their numbers by demographics. These ratings showed that Westerns were being watched primarily by an older audience, not the coveted younger generation that was more likely to purchase a sponsor's products.
Although the television Western had lost its outrageous popularity by the early 1960's, it was not finished as shows like "Gunsmoke", "Bonanza", and "The Big Valley" maintained popularity. After the violence issure was resolved with these more family oriented programs, the Western hung on well into the late 1960's. In the 1970's it was basically extinct but by the 1988-1989 season, with the production of one of the finest miniseries ever made in any genre ("Lonesome Dove"), it showed that there was still a flicker of interest.

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