Clarity. I'm the first to say things aren't always black and white (like the old TV shows -s-), but then again, there are certainties. I love the old TV Westerns. There is nothing like them now. In fact there are some shows I watch now. And I always watch them as I have always watched entertainment, with a grain of salt, measuring them against content and reality. I'm able to suspend disbelief and enjoy.
As for Westerns, there was a time when they covered both movies and television. Now there are none. There was Deadwood, a morbid dark show and yes there is Hell on Wheels, a dark tinged show about the railroad expansion in the last half of the 19th century. To me it is all in the telling.
Realism is dandy, but the emphasis is on how duplicitous people can be and the evil white man/capitalist. Were there faults? Sure. But we are a country which acknowledges our complete history, warts and all. And we still have the stuff Freedom is made of.
Wagon Train, among others, had a great deal of realism. It lasted eight years and managed to tell a morality tale each week. It, and many others, gave people something to think about. Many of the Westerns didn't always have tidy endings either. They were left undone, with conclusions to be drawn by the watcher. Tough decisions, not always cut and dried, ensued on shows like Gunsmoke.
I am also quick to add that there was probably more gunplay on TV/movies than in the real Old West. One should keep in mind that studying history mustn't be based on Hollywood theatrics. But the stories are what I'm driving at. And it wasn't a matter of wondering what was right. But these Westerns pointed out that in life decisions/outcomes aren't always neatly done up. And that we must live with consequences.
Responsibility is a steady message in these shows. The Rifleman comes to mind. That, by the way, was a terrific example of a single dad raising his son.
So many show, so little time. I suggest you all find as many rerunning and on disc. Get a taste for yourself.
I will leave the conclusion up to you.