This is yet another series that I remember being devoted to as a kid, but some 40+ years later I of course didn't remember any real details of the series, its guest stars, or episodes.
When in January 2010 Encore Westerns began showing it, I was amazed.
First, when it originally aired my family didn't have a color television. The cinematography in The Virginian is amazing for a series that started in 1962. Not only was filming a TV series in color unusual at that early time, but the quality of color is outstanding ... each episode looks virtually like a technicolor movie.
Second, most of the scripts are quite compelling. Unlike some Western films, where an complex adventure has to be squeezed into 90 to 120 minutes, the writers of The Virginian knew they had a series of shows to work with. Therefore they opted for somewhat more simple, yet strong, stories that they could explore at a more leisurely pace. It doesn't mean the shows are slow moving ... quite the opposite. It means they have more time for character study, and for the most part this is a real strength of the show.
Finally, the acting is very good. Each show has strong guest stars, a real Who's Who of television and movie actors. The cast also gives strong performances, including an amazing job by James Drury. Why he wasn't treated to more long term starring roles after this is a mystery to me. Even Doug McClure, who walked thru most of the rest of his career trading on his popularity as Trampus, gave strong and believable performances in this series.
Obviously, I highly recommend The Virginian to any fan of westerns. Whether you are a younger viewer discovering this show for the first time, or someone like me 'rediscovering it', you'll experience a true delight.
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