James Arness Was ‘Off and Running’ With New Show Just Days After ‘Gunsmoke’s Cancellation

by Madison Miller
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The very popular Western TV show “Gunsmoke” was still getting high ratings when it was canceled in 1975. At the time, CBS had failed to mention the show’s cancelation to some of the cast members. James Arness, who played Marshal Matt Dillon, got a call from the producer of the show, John Mantley, one day telling him to go look at a copy of Hollywood Reporter.

Arness picked up an issue and noticed the bottom announced the cancellation of “Gunsmoke.” According to IMDb, most of the other cast members found out by trade publications as well. Arness had also been shocked by the news. He was expecting another season, possibly even three, at the time the series ended.

Instead of sulking, Arness began to search for work again alongside Mantley.

James Arness Sets Off on a New Project

He ended up working on “How The West Was Won” instead.

“So we were off and running within days, actually, of cancellation of ‘Gunsmoke.’ Of course that turned out to be a tremendous hit, that first episode … I think CBS had to feel a bit odd about that,” Arness said in an interview.

Similar to “Gunsmoke,” his new show would be catering to an audience interested in Western-themed productions. The TV show was made based on the original 1962 film.

It starred James Arness, Eva Marie Saint, Fionnula Flanagan, Bruce Boxleitner, and Richard Kiley. It centered around the Macahan family. The family from Virginia is traveling across the country in order to pioneer new land in the American West. There were only 25 episodes and three seasons aired for the limited series.

The show was widely popular especially in Europe and turned into a popular cult-classic there.

‘Gunsmoke’ Cancellation and Finale

In many ways, “Gunsmoke” disappeared from the TV without what some fans would consider a proper goodbye. The cancellation was sudden and fast.

There isn’t a specific reason as to why the show was canceled. Some think it was because CBS believed the show wasn’t bringing in the right kind of audience they were looking for.

The last episode of the show was “The Sharecroppers.” The episode focuses on Festus after he accidentally shoots someone in the leg and brings the man back to his farm. It was a seemingly lighthearted episode and was not intended to be the finale.

According to MeTV, the show was nearly canceled years before, but fans protested and more seasons were created. However, this time many critics were saying both the show and audience were becoming “too old, too rural.”

Outsider.com