Unfortunately, when the show expanded to an hour the following season, the series began to run low on narrative bullets and Arness — by then an associate producer on the show — became increasingly absent, leaving his supporting players to serve as focal points of many episodes.
And Weaver — whose Chester was usually the most interesting and amusing of the continuing characters — finally left the program in 1963 to pursue other acting interests.
Still, “Gunsmoke” went on to become the United States' longest-running prime time, live-action TV drama with 635 episodes through 20 seasons.
But these 30-minute gems from the first six seasons remain some of the finest and most original dramatic entertainment in the history of the medium.
Dodge City in its black-and-white days is well worth a visit.
— Gene Triplett