The American Frontier

PBS (ended 1988)


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The American Frontier

Show Summary

Most people think of Charlie Jones and Merlin Olsen for their contributions to football (Jones as a broadcaster, Olsen as a Hall of Fame defensive tackle). Indeed, NBC sometimes paired them for NFL broadcasts. But one other thing Charlie and Merlin share is a fascination for the Old West. In the mid-1980s, they researched the Old West and put together The American Frontier, a series of short videos for American public television. Some of these shorts reveal the truth about things we seem to know, such as the California Gold Rush and the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Other programs delve into some of the people whose deeds are sometimes forgotten in today's world. Among that latter category was Horace Tabor (pictured), who had cornered the silver market in Colorado in the 1880s. Please note: The American Frontier was originally produced as filler material to absorb the three to nine minutes between PBS shows. Technically, this means there was no particular order of the programs. The episode order in this guide is based on the tape reels sent to PBS stations. Quickly, the distributor saw the value of The American Frontier to high-school American history lessons. Beginning in September 1985 and continuing through 1996, select PBS affiliates scheduled weekly runs of The American Frontier during their instructional broadcast hours. Depending on the individual policy, PBS affiliates could run two episodes at a time, spanning a total of ten to fifteen minutes. This multiplies the running orders of individual episodes. Also, the distributor had specially packaged eleven shows from Season 2 into a five-part school presentation. "Original air dates" are based on the regular run of The American Frontier on WVIZ in Cleveland. This, too, is rather arbitrary. During the 1980s and the former 1990s, it was WVIZ custom to present all episodes of new ITV series in the two weeks following Labor Day. The editor of The American Frontier guide followed the series closely when these shows aired in Cleveland, and thus was particularly interested in establishing this guide.moreless