Season 6 of Gunsmoke would mark the last of the half-hour black and white shows. It would also be the last year the show would rank as the Number 1 show on TV. Gunsmoke ranked a very respectable No. 8 in its first season. As the actors matured in their roles, it would rocket to the No. 1 spot and stay there for the next four years. Dennis Weaver's Chester Goode helped out in the Marshall's Office and all was right with the show. I have always considered these shows to be the golden years of Gunsmoke. These episodes relied very heavily on recycled scripts from the admittedly superior radio show. If you have never heard the radio shows, you owe it to yourself to give them a try.)
Season 7 the show's time slot expanded to a full hour and Gunsmoke dropped to No. 10. The half-hour scripts were stretched to fit the hour format and story pace suffered. It would continue to drop in the ratings down to a low of No. 34 in season 12. Dennis Weaver left the show after two seasons of hour-long episodes. Chester's last season the show ranked at No. 20. The following season it dropped to No. 27. The loss of Chester was a big deal to someone like me, who had watched the show since its premiere. After his departure, I lost interest in the show. I probably would not be interested in buying the later seasons. Ken Curtis's Festus was cute for about 15 minutes the first time I saw him. After that, I couldn't figure out why no one wanted to strangle him - and I really liked Ken Curtis as an actor-singer. Did you know he was one of the original "Sons of the Pioneers" singing group?)
In season 12 (1967) color was added and Gunsmoke would climb back to be in the top ten for six straight years. Too few shows dealt primarily with Matt Dillon. The secondary characters do not interest me. I would like a collection of episodes where Matt rides off alone and the entire plot is about his adventure.
Through all the years, I have never tired of James Arness and his appealing portrayal of Marshall Matt Dillon.
The half-season releases ARE an irritant. What will they do when the show length doubles - issue quarter-seasons? The audience for these old, black and white shows is dying off. At the rate they are releasing this series, the audience for the COLOR shows will have died off before all of THOSE have been released. I am old enough to wonder whether I will ever see the release of Dennis Weaver's last season.
The quality of the half-hour shows was all 5-Star material - even the first season and the quality of the digital transfers is truly spectacular.
The 4-star rating is for the lack of ANY bonus material. The main stars are long gone now, but there surely are decades worth of interviews and TV historians who could be called upon to record enlightening commentaries.
UPDATE - UPDATE - UPDATE
HOORAY! SOMEONE AT PARAMOUNT MUST BE READING THESE CUSTOMER REVIEWS!!!
Gunsmoke, Season 5, Vol. 2 is scheduled to be released on December 13, 2011 - Just 2 months after the October 11, 2011 release date for Season 5, Vol. 1 - and JUST IN TIME FOR CHRISTMAS!!!
Thank you, Paramount.
AMAZON IS ALREADY TAKING PRE-ORDERS