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Gunsmoke is an American radio and television Western drama series created by director Norman Macdonnell and writer John Meston. The stories take place in and around Dodge City, Kansas, during the settlement of the American West. The central character is lawman Marshal Matt Dillon, played by William Conrad on radio and James Arness on television.
When aired in the UK, the television series was initially titled Gun Law, later reverting to Gunsmoke. Marshal Matt Dillon is in charge of Dodge City, a town in the wild west where people often have no respect for the law. He deals on a daily basis with the problems associated with frontier life: cattle rustling, gunfights, brawls, standover tactics, and land fraud. Such situations call for sound judgement and brave actions: of which Marshal Dillon has plenty. The radio series ran from 1952 to 1961. John Dunning wrote that among radio drama enthusiasts,
"Gunsmoke is routinely placed among the best shows of any kind and any time." The television series ran for 20 seasons from 1955 to 1975, and stands as the United States’ longest-running prime time, live-action drama with 635 episodes. In 2010, Law & Order tied Gunsmoke for most seasons for a live action drama series when it finished its twentieth and final season, but the show finished 179 episodes short of Gunsmoke’s final total; in terms of prime-time scripted series with continuing characters,
The Simpsons is the only program to exceed 20 seasons. At the end of its run in 1975, Los Angeles Times columnist Cecil Smith wrote: "Gunsmoke was the dramatization of the American epic legend of the west. Our own Iliad and Odyssey, created from standard elements of the dime novel and the pulp western as romanticized by [Ned] Buntline, [Bret] Harte, and [Mark] Twain. It was ever the stuff of legend.