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Westerns Set To Flourish On the Small Screen

By on September 2, 2011

Westerns are not flavor of the month in theaters at the moment.  August saw John Favreau’s much anticipated Cowboys and Aliens threatened by The Smurfs at the box office, while Stephen King’s Dark Tower gunslinger saga, and Gore Verbinski’s Lone Ranger were both passed over for big screen treatment by Universal and Disney respectively.

However the small screen may yet offer salvation for the Western format, with a number of western-themed dramas currently in production and post production headed our way this year and next.

ABC recently bought Hangtown, from Battlestar Galactica developer and executive producer Ron Moore and Caprica writer Matt Roberts. Deadline described Hangtown as a Western with a procedural overlay. 

Hangtown is set in the early 1900s in a frontier town that’s begun rapidly expanding with the coming of the railroad. It centers on three characters: the Marshal, a Matt Dillon/Clint Eastwood type who prefers to solve crimes by his instinct; a young  doctor from the East Coast who is interested in using the new field of forensics to solve crimes; and a young woman writer who is trying to sell dime novels to the publishing houses in New York about crime in the Wild West. Every week the instincts of the Marshal, the science of the doctor, and the young woman’s drive to tell a rousing good yarn to her editors combine to solve crimes in a wide-open, lawless town.”

ABC also recently bought Gunslinger from David Zabel (ER, Detroit 1-8-7).

NBC meanwhile has acquired a western series script of its own from Peter Berg and Liz Heldens.  The unnamed project is from Universal Media Studios and Berg’s Film 44.  Heldens will both write and undertake executive producer duties.  This western series will tell the story from a female point of view.  Little else is known at this point.

Not to be outdone, TNT has given a cast-contingent pilot order to Bruce C. McKenna and Danny Cannon’s Gateway, which is set in the 1880s.

And lastly, AMC’s Hell on Wheels, starring Anson Mount and Colm Meaney, debuts this November. Hell on Wheels centers on Cullen Bohannan, a former confederate soldier whose quest for vengeance leads him to the Union Pacific Railroad’s westward construction of the first Transcontinental Railroad.


One Comment

  1. Pat Considine

    September 2, 2011 at 12:23 pm

    Tough genre. It will be interesting to see if any survive. I remember watching the pilot to Briscoe County Jr and loved the characters, the colour and the comedy of the show. However Briscoe soon moved into slow, serious, dramatic episodes and even I was no longer interested.
    Of course the Western is normally about strong, no nonsense, sometimes edgy males, and it will be interesting if any have that. It is hard to think of many TV shows that are brave enough to have strong edgy lead character, except perhaps House. IMHO

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