That’s why the classic western Gunsmoke was canceled after 20 years and didn’t get a final episode. Before becoming a TV show, Gunsmoke started its life as a radio program. Although it was once reported that John Wayne claimed the lead role of Marshal Matt Dillon, this was eventually refuted, because at that time it was unheard of for a movie star to switch to a TV series. However, Wayne recorded the intro to the first episode of Gunsmoke in support of his friend James Arness, who really took on the role of Dillion.
Gunsmoke debuted on CBS in 1955, and the series became a hit with both critics and ratings. It was also considered rougher and more down-to-earth than the average Western film of the time. As a result, the series will consist of more than 630 episodes and was once the longest-running scripted series in prime time – a record that The Simpsons eventually broke with the season 29 episode “Sorry and Sorry.”
Arness also appeared in every episode of Gunsmoke, which countless future movie stars have gone through, including Kurt Russell, Jodie Foster, who actually appeared three times, and Burt Reynolds. Gunsmoke has consistently received high ratings throughout its existence, although its popularity declined in 1967 when CBS planned to cancel it. However, this caused a public reaction, so the network decided to continue its production. After the finale of the 20th season of Gunsmoke “Sharecroppers” aired, the actors and crew expected to extend at least one more series, but instead CBS decided to cancel the show and replace it with a spin-off of the sitcom “Rhoda”.
CBS probably felt that Gunsmoke was outdated and wanted to replace it with more modern shows, although it still worked well. However, this sudden cancellation meant that the team was unable to give Gunsmoke a proper ending. “Sharecroppers” was a more comedic outing, which was in no way intended as a final episode, which caused bitterness among the actors and especially Arness. This is the main reason why Arness, who played the main role in the first film adaptation of “Something”, eventually returned in the 1987 TV movie “Smoke from the Trunk: Return to the Trick.”
Although this did not lead to a revival of the series, Arness returned in four more films, including Gunsmoke: The Long Ride and Gunsmoke: One Man’s Justice 1994. The latter marked not only the end of Gunsmoke as a franchise—at least for now—it was also Arness’ last acting credit. While it’s not unheard of for a long-running popular TV show not to get a finale—”Married with Kids” would later suffer the same fate when it was abruptly discontinued after season 11-Gunsmoke ending without fanfare was one of the most egregious. Fortunately, Return To Dodge helped fix this error.