What was not to like? Two outlaws, ready to turn over a new leaf, and yet having trouble doing it. Fun!
It's possible I enjoyed it directly because of the Paul Newman and Robert Redford western "buddy" film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid - which portrayed ruthless outlaws as fun-loving guys, who only wanted easy money and didn't really want to kill anyone (yeah, right) while getting it. Hey, I was a young kid when I saw it. I lived "back east" and had no idea of what "the west" - wild or not - really was. All I can say is I loved a great story. And that film, along with the other classic television shows I've mentioned already, plus The Rifleman, The Guns of Will Sonnet, Lancer and countless others, entertained western-lovers with great stories and characters.
Murphy and Duel were a great acting team with the right blend of double trouble and self-preservation. The two cousin outlaws wanted to mend their errant ways, so when the governor offers amnesty - on conditions they keep the agreement secret for political reasons - the duo snap it up. However, Smith and Jones (their new monikers) must maintain a low profile - difficult since their reputations and the wanted posters haunt them. They also must keep from sinning again (despite their prowess with dynamite, gun shoot-outs and saloon brawls) until the Governor grants them amnesty - if they reform. But will they?
But Bonanza's final episode aired days after Alias Smith and Jones ended, leaving Gunsmoke alone on TV until Dusty's Trail aired in the fall of 1973 - which ended in March of 1974 (a remake of Gilligan's Island in the old west with Bob Denver and Forrest Tucker.) Western television shows faded away when police dramas began crowding the airwaves. I had to be content with reruns of classic John Wayne western films. Sigh.I'm still waiting for western comedies to return to the airwaves.
In my opinion, Hell on Wheels isn't in that league. Too dark. No real fun. Maybe one day, western comedy will make a comeback. I'll be waiting with impatience.
Meg Mims is an award-winning author with two western mysteries under her Eastern belt. She lives in Michigan, where the hills are like driveway slopes and trees block any type of prairie winds. LIKE her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter or check out her books on her website. Double Crossing won the 2012 Spur Award for Best First Novel and Double or Nothing is the exciting sequel. Her story, "A Savior Is Born," is included in A Wolf Creek Christmas published by Western Fictioneers.