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Cheyenne: The Complete First Season (DVD)
No collection of classic TV Westerns is complete without Cheyenne, the trailblazing 1955 series that premiered within weeks of Gunsmoke. The strapping Clint Walker stars as Cheyenne Bodie, the iconic role that earned him his place in the Hall of Great Western Performers at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. Cheyenne is a classic Western hero in the drifter tradition, accepting jobs ranging from frontier scout to trail boss. In this first season, he is accompanied at times by sidekick Smitty (L.Q. Jones). "It takes about a minute to know a man," one character remarks during the course of Cheyenne's first season. But we size up Cheyenne in an instant. He is a man of honor, straight shooting and plainspoken. In one episode, he declines an offered position of ranch foreman. "I don't like the job," he states, "and when I don't like a job, I turn it down." When a woman refers to Indians as "savages" in the first episode, Cheyenne enlightens her, "The Indians think we're the savages." Several episodes, including "Quicksand" and "The Last Train West," echo the John Ford masterpiece, Stagecoach, as Cheyenne finds himself amongst a diverse and disparate group of people who are thrown together by circumstance.
Cheyenne was part of a new breed of "adult Western." The episode "Johnny Bravo" (was this the inspiration for Greg's rock star nom de plume on The Brady Bunch?) deals with a rancher who disapproves of his daughter's affair with a Mexican. Keep a sharp lookout for actors who would later become Hollywood's most wanted. A pre-Maverick James Garner appears as different characters in three episodes. Dennis Hopper is hot-triggered gunfighter the Utah Kid, in "Quicksand." And that's the future Miss Hathaway, Nancy Kulp, as a sassy waitress in "Johnny Bravo." Cheyenne was originally broadcast as one of three rotating series under the banner, Warner Brothers Presents, but it quickly established itself as the runaway hit. Like the best Westerns, it is anything but quaint nostalgia. With its timeless setting, compelling stories, charismatic hero, and positive values, the sun will never set on Cheyenne. --Donald Liebenson