The debut episode, "Matt Gets It" was introduced to the US audience by John Wayne, which lent an air of credence to James Arness as Matt Dillon. His portrayal of Dillon was in the vein of the radio version created by William Conrad, but over the ensuing the years Arness molded the character to more of his personality and less bitter about life and people. CBS' in later years would tone down the violence seen in the first few seasons of Gunsmoke and it became more of a character drama than western. In the beginning many of the radio scripts with small changes were used and by the 3rd season was the #1 program on primetime television. Gunsmoke paved the way for a slew of "adult" westerns with good scripts and believable situations with the good guy not always winning or getting the girl.
Today on its 60th birthday "Gunsmoke" is still seen as a high point in drama and westerns on TV and in 1958 was awarded the Emmy Award for Best Dramatic Series. In 1959 the Emmy Awards added a category for Best Western Series, thanks to the popularity of Gunsmoke every network had several on their schedule, but they lost to ABC's "Maverick".
Even today Gunsmoke is seen on at least 3 different networks everyday, ME-TV, TVLand and Starz Westerns, proving that some shows are so good they transcend generations.