The episode presented to you today is the second in an eight-part behind-the-scenes look at one of TV’s most iconic Western serials, “How the West Was Won” starring Bruce Boxleitner and James Arness. Producer Jim Byrnes recalls his trepidation at producing – “I never produced anything in my life – except a couple kids!” After finding out that Jim Arness was available after his 20-year role as Marshall Matt Dillon on “Gunsmoke” came to an end, Byrnes knew that he had found just the right person to portray the intrepid Zeb Macahan in the new show.
The connection to “Gunsmoke” didn’t stop there: its director, Bernie McEveety, came on to direct the pilot for “How the West Was Won” and brought several other “Gunsmoke” alumni along for the ride. McEveety’s history as a director includes a wide range of TV series; in addition to “Gunsmoke” and “How the West Was Won”, his credits include “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color“, “Trapper John, M.D.“, “Knight Rider“, and “Simon & Simon“.
John Mantley, the executive producer of “Gunsmoke” for eleven years and Byrnes’ mentor, came onboard with “How the West Was Won” as well; his credits include “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century” and “MacGyver“.
The pilot episode should look very familiar to Western Legends Roundup attendees; Byrnes mentions how the cast and crew got to know Kanab quite well throughout the course of filming.
“I never produced anything in my life – except a couple kids!”
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