Gunsmoke (The Thirteenth Season Volume 1 & 2)

Thirteen seasons is normally when a TV show is winding down. Back in 1967 no regular drama had made it that far when Gunsmoke reached that achievement. Only The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, Lassie, The Jack Benny Program and Armstrong Circle Theatre had sniffed that rare air. But Gunsmoke had only gotten so far because of its ability to reinvent himself format wise. The first six seasons it was a hit as a 30 minute black and white series that gave visuals to the hit radio drama. The next five season had CBS expand the show out to an hour. At first it did well with ratings, but then it slid from #3 to #30. Why? Because CBS didn’t want to jump into the world of color TV. Bonanza became the show to talk about during this time. Why? Because it made you sound like you owned a color TV. The show seemed marked for cancelation until the network gave in and allowed their shows to make and be broadcasted in the Fall of 1966. The 12th season saw a rebound for their flagship drama as Dodge City had the same hues as the Ponderosa. But the head of CBS William S. Paley was ready to pull the plug on the show until his wife told him no. She didn’t settle for just having it come back for another season. She got her husband to give it a good slot on Monday night. Gunsmoke: The Thirteenth Season Volume 1 & 2 contains the 25 episodes that made it a Top 4 hit tied with Bonanza and Family Affair.

“The Wreckers” has Kitty (Amanda Blake) fool outlaws by putting the badge of Marshall Matt Dillon (James Arness) on a knocked out man. Warren Oates gets to share time before riding off to be part of The Wild Bunch). “Cattle Barons” is the usual cow fight except with Forrest Tucker (F Troop) in the middle of it. “Vengeance” is a two-parter with the classic tale of someone coming into town looking for revenge. Kim Darby appears here before she’d go on to make True Grit with John Wayne. “Hard Luck Henry” introduces us to a cousin of Festus (Ken Curtis). Turns out Henry is John Astin of the Addams Family. The show wasn’t always serious. “Major Glory” is about a couple of AWOL army soldiers looking to take out their dreaded sergeant. Carroll O’ Conner is a part of the plot. A few seasons later, Carroll would be part of the big change at CBS when he returned as Archie Bunker on All In the Family. There are 15 episodes on Volume 1.

The 10 episodes of Volume 2 starts off with “The Victim” about two lawmen dealing with a lynch mob. Among the familiar faces in the crowd are James Gregory (Inspector Luger on Barney Miller) and Beverly Garland (Scarecrow and Mrs. King and My Three Sons). “Nowhere to Run” sticks a kid in a well and his partners in crime fearful that he’ll rat them out if the right person gets him out. “Blood Money” has a father not liking his father wanting to be a gun for hire. So he gets extreme to dissuade the kid. “Hill Girl” puts Newly in trouble with a girl’s kin. This includes Victor French who’d be less intimidating on Little House on the Prairie. “The Jackals” puts Matt on the trail of guys wanting to hurt a pal. Among the plotters is Tige Andrews who’d lead The Mod Squad.

Gunsmoke: The Thirteenth Season Volume 1 & 2 doesn’t disappointment fans in its comeback season. The boxsets are sold separately. Any fan of Gunsmoke owes a debt sense of gratitude to Barbara Cushing Mortimer. This season was a success because she wanted to watch her show and probably did more than give her husband a strongly worded letter of support. She made sure her husband didn’t stick it in a graveyard shift to prove he was right and she was wrong about the series. She made sure Gunsmoke lasted 20 seasons with her fandom. CBS owes her a lot more since the network has made a fortune off of rerunning the 9 color seasons over the decades on various TV stations and cable channels. The network had enough episodes that generations don’t realize the show was in black and white.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfer looks better than episodes that have aired on TV for the last frew decades. The details pop in the resolution upgrade. You’ve probably never seen the show so clearly. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. You can clearly hear with Matt goes for his gun. The episodes are subtitled.

Previews (1:01) are on several of the episodes.

CBS DVD presents Gunsmoke: The Thirteenth Season Volume 1. Starring: James Arness, Milburn Stone, Amanda Blake and Ken Curtis. Boxset Contents: 15 episodes on 4 DVDs. Released: May 22, 2018.

CBS DVD presents Gunsmoke: The Thirteenth Season Volume 2. Starring: James Arness, Milburn Stone, Amanda Blake and Ken Curtis. Boxset Contents: 10 episodes on 3 DVDs. Released: May 22, 2018.

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