When John Wayne was asked to play the lead in Gunsmoke he declined because he didn't want to work in television. Instead, he suggested it to his friend James Arness. Mr. Arness ended up playing Matt Dillon for forty years.

There's something so romantic about the wild west, cowboys and exploring the unknown. What made westerns so popular was the combination of action and adventure all while keeping a large part of the focus on family values. Everyone gathered around their television to watch James Garner play a charmingly good humored man on Maverick or Barbara Stanwyck play the strong-willed head of the family in The Big Valley, a first for women in the genre. Westerns were so huge that it helped launch the careers of many actors including Burt Reynolds and Michael Landon. Walt Disney even got in on the action and created a merchandizing powerhouse out of the mini series Davy Crockett. Disney made so much money off the show and its products he was able to build Disneyland. Tune in tonight for so many more insights into what made the homespun western television show so successful and more importantly, loved.

The Pioneers Of Television airs tonight at 8pm ET/PT