Dirty Sally and Gunsmoke

Dirty Sally (1974)
Gunsmoke (1955-1975)
Type: Spin Off

   There are basically two kinds of TV Westerns. You have your Wagon Train style show where the characters are on the move from place to place finding adventures as they go. Then you've got your show set in a certain location, a certain town and the characters find trouble coming to them in the form of strangers and new folks coming to town. The ultimate example of this second sort of western was Gunsmoke.

   Gunsmoke was so unbelievably successful it ran for TWENTY FREAKING YEARS! That is just unheard of today. Not only that, it was on the air as a radio show for a couple of years before that! That's crazy successful!

   Gunsmoke was set in Dodge City, Kansas where Marshal Matt Dillon, played by James Arness, kept the peace. If you think I'm even going to try and sum up twenty years of TV plus radio plots, you're nuts. It was a western! You know the sorts of stories they do: bad guys ride into town, local ranchers have trouble of one kind or another, aliens abduct Dillon's sister sending him on a quest to expose a government conspira... okay, maybe not that.

   Anyway, the Gunsmoke setup was a great way to start a spin off series of the Wagon Train variety. You have the folks on the move bop into town, establish who they are and where they are off to and then you spin those suckers off!

   And they did. Or they tried. Dirty Sally, played by Jeanette Nolan, was a woman heading west to California with a young gunslinger named Cyrus, played by Dack Rambo. Every week they would come to some new area, meet some new people and help them out as they headed west. In that way it also fit into another TV formula... which I actually just described: main characters who for whatever reason keep traveling from place to place helping folks and then moving on. Same basic setup was used for Kung Fu, The Incredible Hulk, The Fugitive, Route 66, The Phoenix, Highway To Heaven, Touched By An Angel... its a healthy reusable plot device okay.

   But not for Dirty Sally. That dirty... woman only made it through half a season before the lily livered network guns blew her into chunky little bits! The longest running most successful western in TV history managed to spawn one of the shortest and least successful. Oh the humanity.

   And on top of all that, I don't think Sally even got any sweet loving down by the campfire from her traveling companion: Dack Rambo was gay. What's the point of even being named "Dirty Sally" at that point?

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