As much as we love classic Western TV shows, there are some great contemporary options as well. Here are our top picks for best current TV Westerns.
by Nathan Solheim
1. Hell on Wheels on AMC follows the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad and the exploits of gunslinger Cullen Bohannan (Anson Mount), a former slave-owning Southerner displaced by the Civil War. A motley crew of characters moves west with the rail line and town (known as Hell on Wheels). The series features skirmishes with Indians, blood-and-guts fistfights, and enough gunplay for fans of any Western. Look for the series’ third season this summer or fall. www.amctv.com/shows/hell-on-wheels
2. Justified takes place in the hills and hollers of eastern Kentucky. Deputy Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) is a contemporary, 19th-century-styled lawman who brings order to a lawless place. He’s been sent home as punishment for shooting a bad guy and faces quickdraws, hookers with hearts of gold, and a colorful cast of outlaws. The series was born from a couple of Elmore Leonard novels and is in its fourth season on FX. www.fxnetworks.com/justified
3. Longmire features Sheriff Walt Longmire (Aussie actor Robert Taylor), who grapples with a hazy past, complicated moral decisions, and the bad guys of modern northwestern Wyoming. Lou Diamond Phillips is wonderful in his role as Longmire’s part-time counselor, friend, and emissary to the local Indian reservation. Longmire begins its second season on A&E this summer. www.aetv.longmire.com
4. Vegas is a Hollywood marriage of gangster flicks and Westerns. Think: The Godfather meets Rio Bravo. Sheriff Ralph Lamb (Dennis Quaid) brings law and order to a 1960s Las Vegas that’s quickly getting overrun by a growing crowd of Chicago mobsters, led by Michael Chiklis. Quaid is a no-BS sheriff with a cowboy code of ethics. Vegas is in its first season on CBS. www.cbs.com/shows/vegas
5. The Hatfields & McCoys has all the best qualities of a Western. Honor, revenge, and politics collide in the legendary feud between the two families. The miniseries garnered Emmy Awards for Kevin Costner and Tom Berenger. It was broadcast on the History Channel in 2012 and is available on DVD and Netflix. www.history.com/shows/hatfields-and-mccoys
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