“Gunslingers” isn’t discouraged by how much Westerns have fallen out of the public’s imagination.
The Western was one of the most beloved genres of the 1950s and ’60s, but recent Westerns haven’t fared as well: “The Lone Ranger” bombed last summer, and this summer’s “A Million Ways to Die in the West” had disappointing numbers.
But the creators of the American Heroes Channel docu-series believe its recreations of Wild West gunslingers’ stories can still appeal to a wide audience — especially a male one. They spoke at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour Wednesday.
“These are the iconic heroes by which many men hold themselves up,” said Walt Willey, who plays James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok on the series. “Am I as much of a hero as so and so? Am I as much of a man?”
Willey, star of “All My Children,” recently appeared in a one-man show about Hickok.
Chris Cassel, president and creative director of Castle Pictures, Inc., which produces the series, said every new generation wants new takes on Wild West stories. The show will try to break through the myths around men like Billy the Kid.
“I grew up after ‘Bonanza’ and all these things, so I didn’t know these stories,” Cassel said. “It was such a completely foreign way of life for us today. Today everybody has an iPhone. In the Old West everybody had a gun.”
“True West” executive editor Bob Boze Bell, a commentator for the show, said he realized how many myths of the West there were to explore while watching “Wyatt Earp” with his grandmother. The series ran from 1955 to 1961.
After they watched Earp drink milk and clean up dangerous towns, Bell’s grandmother offered another take on the “O.K. Corral” gunman.
“Wyatt Earp was the biggest jerk who ever walked the West,” she told him.
“Gunslingers” beings July 2o on the American Heroes Channel.