It's been a long time since Gunsmoke's TV debut, but America's love affair with cowboys ain't over. "The Western hasn't gone away," Burt Reynolds told reporters at the Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena, Calif., where he talked up Larry McMurtry's Johnson County War. Set to debut Aug. 24 on the Hallmark Channel, the teleplay also co-stars Tom Berenger and Luke Perry.
Reynolds who's starred in Western yarns from Navajo Joe to The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas says he much prefers playing a cowboy to being a real one. "I think Willie [Nelson] and Waylon [Jennings], God bless 'em, could tell you even better, but it is the hardest, toughest way to make a living," he said. "You don't make any money. Mr. McMurtry has addressed that, if you've read his books. He deals with the sweat and the unromanticized part of being a cowboy.
"I mean, you feel great when you put that wardrobe on," the 66-year-old actor laughed. "You look like John Travolta for a minute. But the reality of it is that most of those real cowboys look like a thousand miles of bad road."
Even so, shooting Johnson County brought back good memories for Reynolds. When he started on TV back in the '50s, he recalls, "there were 18 Westerns on the air. You could not walk into the [studio] commissary without stepping in something! Bette Davis was doing Wagon Train because it was so well written. That was the golden age of television."