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Couch Comfort: Where to watch vintage Westerns

Lorne Greene starred as Ben Cartwright on "Bonanza."

Lorne Greene starred as Ben Cartwright on "Bonanza."  Credit: CBS Television

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If TV today seems crowded with crimesolvers, it was once just as jammed with gunslingers. Westerns ran roughshod over midcentury screens circa 1960, when more than 30 shoot-'em-up series ran on just three networks.

Back then, viewers were as close in time to the real wild West as we are to the '60s. TV Westerns beamed wide-open spaces to Americans living in cities just sprawling into suburbs. Episode plots offered the black hat/white hat clarity of frontier justice when Americans were struggling with Cold War fears and nuclear anxieties. Lone gunman personified individual freedom, while cowhands and townspeople rallied together for common goals.

Westerns have mostly disappeared now from TV prime-time, but that doesn't mean we don't still feel their appeal, especially in uncertain times.  The genre rides on in surprisingly pervasive repeat options — still celebrating that clear moral compass, innate compassion and strength of community, not to mention those expansive outdoor vistas.

[All times are Mon-Fri weekday runs, unless otherwise noted. Check listings for additional airings.]

The Big Valley (2:27 p.m., Starz Encore Westerns / Saturday noon, MeTV)  Movie star Barbara Stanwyck provides a female iron fist for her California ranch clan.

Bonanza (11 a.m., TV Land / 2 p.m., MeTV)  Top-rated color saga follows Nevada ranch dad (Lorne Greene) and his grown sons (Michael Landon, Dan Blocker, Pernell Roberts).

Cheyenne (5 a.m., H & I / 5:30 p.m., Westerns) Clint Walker's towering cowboy roams the west.

Gunsmoke (hours noon-4 p.m. on TV Land / half-hours 1-2 p.m., MeTV) — Two-decade hit centers on levelheaded Dodge City lawman (James Arness), other locals, passers-through. (Half-hours in first 6 seasons, hourlong for next 14.)

Have Gun Will Travel (8-9 a.m., H&I / Saturday 9-10 a.m., MeTV)  Black-and-white character study gains gravity from Richard Boone's physically and philosophically imposing gun-for-hire.

The High Chaparral (10 a.m., H & I)  Rare multicultural saga explores Arizona/Mexico border life among American settlers (Leif Erickson, Cameron Mitchell), Spanish descendants (Henry Darrow, Frank Silvera), Native Americans.

Hopalong Cassidy (Saturday 8-9 a.m., Westerns)  William Boyd wore black but fought for good in this children's favorite. TV's first western series, in 1949.

The Lone Ranger (5:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 6:30 p.m., 12:30 a.m., Cowboy)  Simple kid-aimed actioner with sidekick Tonto still has its retro charms.

Maverick (6 a.m., H & I / 4:39 p.m., Westerns / Saturday 10 a.m., MeTV)  Westerns lampoon themselves: James Garner hit stardom as a semi-upright, dry-witted, violence-averse gambler.

Rawhide (9-10 a.m., H & I / Saturday 3 p.m., MeTV) -Clint Eastwood made his name in this trail drive drama with rare black cowboy Raymond St. Jacques (final season only).

The Rifleman (3-4 p.m., MeTV)  Chuck Connors' single dad shows his son how being a man means being moral.

The Roy Rogers Show (5 a.m., 10 a.m., 6 p.m., midnight, Cowboy)  Kid-aimed adventure has a more modern setting, with comic-relief Jeeps alongside Roy's horse Trigger. Plus Dale Evans.

The Virginian (6:50 p.m., Westerns)  First 90-minute western tracks ranch life with stars James Drury, Doug McClure, Lee J. Cobb, John McIntire, David Hartman.

Wagon Train (4 p.m., MeTV)  Anthology stars Ward Bond, Robert Horton, Robert Fuller led big-name guest stars west: Bette Davis, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Laughton.

Wanted Dead or Alive (7-8 a.m., H & I / Saturday 4-5 p.m., MeTV)  Steve McQueen's star-making role casts him as a bounty hunter.

The Wild Wild West (1-3 p.m., feTV)  Always an absurd romp: '60s Bondian-western-spy-sci, with hero agent Robert Conrad's tight pants, sidekick Ross Martin's thousand faces, crafty supervillains.

Wyatt Earp (2 p.m., Westerns) Hugh O'Brian played the historic marshal for this first western aimed at adults, in 1955.

WESTERNS TV BLOCKS

(Check channel listings for titles/times)

H & I:Weekdays 5-11 a.m. Series highlights above.

feTV: Weekdays 1-4 p.m., Saturday-Sunday 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Series also include "Lone Ranger," "Bat Masterson."

Westerns from StarzEncore: Weekdays 2-8 p.m. Series also include "Laramie," "Death Valley Days," "Lawman."

getTV: Saturday 3:30 a.m.-7 p.m., Sunday 3:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Includes "Laredo," "Hondo," David Carradine in "Shane," Kurt Russell in "The Quest," James Arness in "How the West Was Won," James Garner's "Bret Maverick" revival.

MeTV: Saturday 7 a.m.-6 p.m. Includes "Bat Masterson," "Trackdown," other shows above.

STREAMING SHOWCASE

(Available via smart TVs/Blu-ray players, devices like Roku and Amazon Fire, computers, mobile. Both live/linear channels or on-demand.)

Pluto. TV (linear/on-demand) — CMT Westerns (Ch. 84), Gene Autry, "Lone Ranger," "Bonanza," "Magnificent Seven."

Roku.com (linear/on-demand)- Free Roku Channel has "Bonanza," "The Rebel," "Wyatt Earp," "Lone Ranger," "Annie Oakley." Plus, many subscription westerns channels.

STIRR.com (linear/on-demand)- "Bonanza" (Ch. 197), "Lone Ranger" (Ch. 190), "Cisco Kid," "Buffalo Bill Jr."

TubiTV.com (on-demand) — "Bonanza," "The Rebel," "Tate," "Roy Rogers," "Fury," "Cisco Kid."

Amazon Prime (on-demand)  Subscription includes "Deadwood," "Magnificent Seven," "Young Riders," "Jim Bowie," "Judge Roy Bean," "Kit Carson," "Yancy Derringer," "Bat Masterson," "Wyatt Earp," "Stories of the Century," "Bonanza."

Netflix (on-demand) Subscription includes "Hell on Wheels."

WHERE TO WATCH

Optimum

Cowboy 157

GetTV 143

H&I 140

MeTV 33

TV Land 34

Westerns 353

FiOS

Cowboy 246

feTV 245

H&I 15

MeTV 3

TV Land 241

Westerns 354

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