When Did 'Gunsmoke' Go to Color? Exploring the Transition from Black and White to Color in the Legendary Western TV Series

When Did ‘Gunsmoke’ Go to Color? Exploring the Transition from Black and White to Color in the Legendary Western TV Series

When Did ‘Gunsmoke’ Go to Color? Exploring the Transition from Black and White to Color in the Legendary Western TV Series

Gunsmoke, the iconic Western TV series, ran for an impressive 20 seasons from 1955 to 1975, captivating audiences with its gripping storyline and memorable characters. Yet, one question that frequently arises among fans is when the show made the transition from black and white to color. In this article, we delve into the details of this pivotal moment in television history.

The Early Years: Gunsmoke in Black and White

When Gunsmoke first premiered in 1955, it was filmed entirely in black and white. This was the norm for television shows at the time, as color televisions were not yet widely available in households. However, despite being shot in black and white, Gunsmoke managed to captivate audiences with its stunning cinematography, compelling storytelling, and talented cast.

The black and white visuals added a certain charm and grittiness to the show, complementing the ruggedness of the Wild West setting. The monochromatic palette highlighted the stark landscapes, the hardships faced by the characters, and the moral dilemmas they encountered.

The Transition: Gunsmoke Embraces Color

As technology advanced and color television sets became more prevalent in the 1960s, many TV shows started making the shift to color. In 1966, after more than a decade of being filmed in black and white, Gunsmoke finally embraced color.

This transition brought a fresh perspective to the already beloved series. The vibrant hues now showcased the picturesque landscapes of Dodge City and added an extra layer of authenticity to Gunsmoke’s portrayal of the Old West. The colors breathed new life into the show, captivating viewers in a whole new way.

The Impact of Color: Enhancing the Viewing Experience

For fans who had followed the show from its early black and white days, experiencing Gunsmoke in color was undoubtedly a transformative moment. From the vibrant costumes to the vivid details of the set, the introduction of color enhanced the overall viewing experience.

The rich colors also allowed for more nuanced storytelling. The visual cues provided by the colors further emphasized the emotions conveyed by the actors, allowing viewers to more fully immerse themselves in the narrative. The transition to color was seen as a reflection of the show’s growth and evolution, keeping it relevant and appealing to a new generation of viewers.

A Lasting Legacy: Gunsmoke in Color

The transition to color undoubtedly solidified Gunsmoke’s place in television history. The series continued to captivate audiences for almost a decade in color, further cementing its status as one of the most beloved Western TV shows of all time.

Today, fans can still enjoy Gunsmoke in color through various streaming platforms and DVD releases. The vibrant hues bring the Wild West to life, allowing new generations to appreciate the timeless appeal of this legendary Western series.


The transition from black and white to color in Gunsmoke marked a significant turning point in the history of the show. It allowed for a more visually stunning and immersive experience, while also keeping Gunsmoke relevant in a changing television landscape. Whether watched in black and white or color, Gunsmoke remains a timeless classic that continues to captivate audiences with its gripping storytelling and unforgettable characters.


1. When did “Gunsmoke” first start airing on television?

The popular western TV series “Gunsmoke” first started airing on television in 1955.

2. How long did the show run in black and white?

“Gunsmoke” continued to be broadcast in black and white for a total of 12 seasons, from 1955 to 1967.

3. When did “Gunsmoke” make the transition to color?

The transition from black and white to color in “Gunsmoke” occurred in 1967, at the start of its 13th season.

4. Why did the show decide to make the switch to color?

At the time, many television networks were transitioning to color broadcasting in order to compete with the rise of color TVs in households. The producers of “Gunsmoke” decided to make the switch to keep up with the industry trend and provide viewers with a more visually appealing experience.

5. Was the transition to color well-received by the audience?

While some fans initially found the change to color jarring, the transition was generally well-received by the audience. Many appreciated the enhanced visual quality and realism that color brought to the show.

6. Did the transition to color affect the show’s ratings?

The transition to color did not have a significant impact on the show’s ratings. “Gunsmoke” remained one of the top-rated shows throughout its entire run, whether in black and white or color.

7. How were the black and white episodes converted to color for syndication?

In order to convert the earlier black and white episodes to color for syndication, a process called colorization was used. This involved digitally adding color to the black and white footage, often with the help of original production notes and references.

8. Were any changes made to the show’s filming techniques or style after transitioning to color?

After transitioning to color, “Gunsmoke” continued to use the same filming techniques and style as before. The focus remained on storytelling and character development, with the change in color simply enhancing the visual elements of the show.

9. Were there any notable differences in the sets or costumes after the switch to color?

There were no significant changes in the sets or costumes of “Gunsmoke” after the switch to color. The production team aimed to maintain consistency and keep the overall look and feel of the show consistent with its black and white counterpart.

10. Did “Gunsmoke” continue to air new episodes after the transition to color?

Yes, “Gunsmoke” continued to produce and air new episodes for six more seasons after the transition to color. The show finally ended its successful run in 1975, after a total of 20 seasons on the air.