Monday, July 25, 2005


The world of 'Gunsmoke' was pretty much self-contained, and even after twenty years, there was only the one true spin-off from the series, 'Dirty Sally'.

But even though the residents of Dodge City, TV-style, were isolated from the outside world for the most part, that world still found its way into their lives.

A good example came up a few weekends ago as I was watching an episode during the TV Land mini-marathon. "The Fires Of Ignorance" featured three of my favorite stalwarts among Toobworld players - dependable heavy John Vernon, who passed away earlier this year, Allen Garfield, a roly-poly actor not normally known for western roles, and one of my character actor legends, Herb Vigran as the Judge.

At one point during the episode, Doctor Galen Adams mentioned that when Dodge City came into being, there was nobody practicing medicine there until he came along. And he said it was pretty much a lawless place until Matt Dillon showed up to be Marshall.

I knew right away that was a clash with the history of the Real World. (Not that such a problem has ever been a major stumbling block for Toobworld!) But the conflict butted heads with a major legend of the Old West, not only on Earth Prime but also Earth Prime-Time: Bat Masterson.

By 1877, Bat Masterson was the Deputy Sheriff of Dodge City but he soon ascended to be the top law enforcer in town. However, he lost the election two years later and then moved to Kansas City. He didn't return to Dodge until 1883.

During the episode "The Fires of Ignorance", much of the action took place in the Dodge City court-house. And there hanging over the head of the Judge was a portrait of Ulysses S. Grant, President of the United States.

Anybody who watches 'Law & Order' on a regular basis knows that a timeline for the series could be established based on the portraits of the country's Chief Executives in the D.A.'s office. And the same could be done with this example, even from over 130 years ago.

Grant was the eighteenth President of the United States, serving from 1869 to 1877, the same year when Bat Masterson became Sheriff in Dodge City.

So the twenty year reign of 'Gunsmoke' at the top of the ratings should be squeezed in before Masterson became Sheriff.

As we know from 'M*A*S*H' and 'LOST', real time and TV seasons have no real bearing on the time that passes within the show itself. So even though 'Gunsmoke' was on our screens for twenty seasons, its timeline can be condensed. (Of course when it comes to 'That 70s Show', the timeline could also be expanded... and twisted around.)

But there's another train of thought. If I'm not mistaken, the position of Marshall is a federal posting, whereas the job of Sheriff is one elected by the populace of the town. So it's possible that Matt Dillon and Bat Masterson were co-existing in Dodge City long after 'The Fires Of Ignorance', and President Grant's term of office, had come to their conclusions.

Just seems strange that neither one of them ever ran into the other......


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