Tumbleweed Theater (partially found TV anthology series; 1983-1988)

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Still from the intro.

Status: Partially Found

Tumbleweed Theater was an anthology television series which aired on The Nashville Network (TNN) from March, 1983 to April, 1987.[1] The series, hosted by singing cowboy trio Riders In The Sky ("Ranger Doug" Green, Fred "Too Slim" LaBour, and "Woody Paul" Chrisman), was a showcase of Western B-movies from the 1930s and 40s which had fallen into the public domain, and featured sketches and songs performed by the group throughout. From 1983 to 1985, a total of 78 episodes (26 shows per-season) were produced.[2] From 1986 to 1987, two seasons worth of shows were created using new Western films and recycled segments featuring the Riders. It is currently unknown how many "recycled" episodes were created during that time-frame.

Series Overview

A photo from an episode with John Hartford.

Most episodes of Tumbleweed Theater followed the same basic structure: the show would open with a greeting from the Riders (typically from the band's guitarist Ranger Doug, though the other members would get to do an introduction on rare occasions) and tell the viewers about the Western film they were going to feature in that episode. Generic introductions that did not mention specific movies were also used. After this intro, a song or sketch would be performed by the band, and after returning from a commercial break, the movie itself would start. Throughout the 90 minute program, the Riders would return with more sketches or song performances, occasionally appearing with special guest or one of the Riders' own cast of characters (including the likes of Drywall Paul, L. Philo "Larry" Mammoth, Sergent Dudley, Alfalfa, Too Jaws, and more). After the film concluded, the Riders appeared to bid farewell to the viewers and thank them for watching.

Another photo from a Hawaiian themed sketch.

Home Media Releases

Though complete episodes of the series never had a home media release, a VHS compilation entitled The Best of Tumbleweed Theater was released in the early 1990s, which featured songs and sketches (primarily from seasons two and three, and only a very small handful coming from season one). The tape was initially only sold at the Riders' concert events, but later became available for purchase through the official Riders In The Sky website (where a DVD version was also sold until the mid-2000s).

Found Episodes

A Season One episode of Tumbleweed Theater: Sky Bandits

Other Footage

The Best of Tumbleweed Theater VHS
Riders In The Sky appear on the TNN Launch Night Special and present a clip of Tumbleweed Theater (March 8th, 1983)
Early TNN Promo featuring a clip of Tumbleweed Theater (1:06)

External Links

  1. The "prelude" text of the official Best of Tumbleweed Theater video states the series aired from March of 1983 to April of 1987.
  2. Biff Collie's AudioBiography: Riders In The Sky Interview (March 1, 1990)