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Series / The Gospel Bill Show

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The Gospel Bill Show is a Christian Western live-action show produced from 1981-93note .

Most of the episodes focused on the town's sheriff, known as Gospel Bill (played by series creator Willie George), giving moral advice to a character and/or stopping a plot by one of the villians. Typically, other characters featured prominently include Nicodemus, Gospel Bill's best friend, foreman of the Flying Frog Ranch and frequent sidekick; Miss Lana, the matronly owner of the town's general store (also the telegraph office); Elmer Barnes, a fishing-obsessed; implied to be somewhat mentally handicapped citizen fond of his fishing worms Inky and Dinky and T.U. Tutwater, president of the Dry Gulch Bank and Trust and the town's mayor whose greed tends to be a point of conflict in several episodesnote . Other frequently seen characters include the series' primary villain, Luther Bedlow (played by Willie George but credited as himself); Orville Cornpone (Rodney Lynch); who starts as Bedlow's dim-witted henchman prior to his Heel–Faith Turn, after which he works for Mr. Tutwater; Ferman Farnsworth (played by Willie George; though the credits alternate between crediting George for the role and an "As Himself" credit); Nicodemus' ornery boss and owner of the Flying Frog Ranch; Miss Trudi Lou, an employee at the Sagebrush Diner (and heavily-implied Lethal Chef); the series' only other prominent female character and object of Nicodemus' affections (incidentally; Trudi Blount - who plays Miss Trudi Lou - and Nicodemus' portrayer Ken Blount, are married in real-life); Barkimeus, an anthropomorphic dog character (played by Keith Holey in a dog costume) who was a main character in the show's early run but was phased out by 1986; the Dough Belly Boys (a trio of overweight, rather dense minor villains played by Ken Blount, Jeff Merrill and Rodney Lynch in which the Running Gag is their trying to find Dry Gulch even as they're in the town) and Johnny Bob MacElroy (Blaine Bartel); a minor character mainly known as The Prankster.

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Typical episodes tended to focus on Gospel Bill either dispensing advice to a town member facing some point of crisis and/or stopping a villainous plot, usually broken up by a puppet segment featuring a character named Oogene where Oogene would host a segment titled "At the Zoo (or occasionally; At the Farm) with Oogene" where Oogene is at a zoo or farm. Frequently (though less common in later shows), another segment would show Oogene with his sister Jeannie Mae in a story related to the main story's plot or occasionally Biblical stories depicted with the puppet characters (most of the puppets are voiced by Willie George; including Oogene and Jeannie Mae. Less common are segments involving a coded message via smoke signals from a Native American {presumably Cherokee given the location} chief named Chief Nowanasinnote ). Before the show goes off, usually the episodes will depict Gospel Bill or Nicodemus giving the lesson of the story and often giving an evangelistic invitation. Typically, this segment would often be either interrupted or preceded by a music video of a song (again, usually by Ken Blount).

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By 1989, the show was reformatted slightly with the name "Adventures in Dry Gulch". Often those episodes had Gospel Bill "out of town" for unknown tasks (by this time, in addition to traveling for children's ministry seminars Willie George was pastoring Tulsa's "Church on the Move"), with Nicodemus often left in charge. Near the end of the series' run; outdoor scenes were shot at the Dry Gulch, U.S.A. summer camp to give the series more of a realistic appearance.

The series produced a number of spinoffs, successor series and a Direct-to-Video film trilogy. Among them are "The Candy Store"note ; "Bill Gunter, U.S. Marshal (later The Cimarron Trail'')note  and what became known as the Wichita Slim trilogy (with most of the same cast plus a part-Cherokee U.S. Marshal known as Wichita Slim {played by televangelist and mutual friend Kenneth Copeland}; a former gunslinger prior to his Heel–Faith Turn when the character was introduced in the 1986 episode "The New Man"): 1991's "The Gunslinger"; 1994's "Covenant Rider" (in which Bill's nephew was kidnapped by associates of this film's Big Bad; Saul Gillespenote ) and 1995's "The Treasure of Eagle Mountain" (involving a hidden treasure left by a retired lawman who had just been shot, the efforts to find it and an attempt to convince his embittered son to reconcile with his father)note . Additionally; Church on the Move also produced a teen-oriented series called "Fire By Nite" with most of the same crew and cast.


Tropes:

  • Acquired Situational Narcissism: Nicodemus gets hit with this in one of the first instances where he was left in charge after Gospel Bill had to go out of town to pick up an outlaw, with the authority quickly going to his head until he gets taken hostage. Fortunately for him, Gospel Bill quickly arrives to the rescue. Later episodes with Nicodemus in a similar situation show him doing a much better job of handling authority.
  • Adventure Towns: Not Dry Gulch but nearby town Dripping Springs (unlike Dry Gulch, this town's name indicates its status as a "wet" city; or a town where alcohol is served).
  • An Aesop: Usually delivered by either Gospel Bill or Nicodemus near the end of the episode.
  • Anachronism Stew: Occasional references to technology that would arrive long after the Wild West setting (such as answering machines) are seen in episodes.
  • The Barber: Lefty Wright, a character introduced in later Dry Gulch productions.
  • Big Bad: For the series proper; Luther Bedlow serves as the primary antagonist.
  • The Blacksmith: A minor character in the series serves as this.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: What happened when Barkimeaus was dropped in 1986.
  • Comically Missing the Point: A good chunk of the series' humor, especially in regards to Elmer Barnes.
    • This exchange between Mr. Tutwater and Nicodemus in "God Gives Back" (in which Tutwater was attempting to convince Nicodemus to convince Miss Lana to sell half the store to him; with the ultimate goal of pushing her out altogether in a hostile takeover)
    T.U. Tutwater: "Nicodemus, I have got a dream. I have got a vision."
    Nicodemus: "You know that happens to me every time I eat pizza after 11:00 at night. Now, the other night..." (Tutwater cuts him off)
  • Cowboy: Nicodemus works as the foreman of the Flying Frog Ranch.
  • Frontier Doctor: Never consistently depicted; only appearing when a main character is sick or wounded. Usually played either by Rodney Lynch or John Witty.
  • George Jetson Job Security: Nicodemus would be fired from the Flying Frog Ranch on several occasions, usually for minor infractions or other strange reasons, including one episode where Ferman Farnsworth dumps Nicodemus in order to give his foreman job to his completely unqualified, city slicker nephew from back East.
  • Good Cop/Bad Cop: In the movie trilogy, Gospel Bill is the By-the-Book Cop while Wichita Slim is the more unrestrained Cowboy Cop.
  • The Gunslinger: Wichita Slim is the primary example.
  • Heel–Faith Turn: We see examples of this on several occasions, among them Orville Cornpone and Wichita Slim. In addition, both Gospel Bill and Nicodemus have this as part of their backstory.
  • Long Runner: The series ran from 1981-93; with spinoff series taking the series well into the 2nd half of The '90s.
  • Malaproper: A recurring trail of Elmer Barnes.
  • Mean Boss: Ferman Farnsworth (to Nicodemus) and T.U. Tutwater (to Orville Cornpone) often fill this role.
  • Meaningful Name: Villains Luther Bedlow, Orville Cornpone and The Dough Belly Boys each have these type of names.
  • Mixed Ancestry: Wichita Slim real name Robert Owens reveals in "Covenant Rider" that his mother was Cherokee and his father an Englishmannote .
  • The Moral Substitute: Serves as this to other Western series, though produced at a period where the genre was not commonly seen outside of reruns.
  • Morally Bankrupt Banker: T.U. Tutwater is a mildly subverted example in that Tutwater usually will avoid involvement in any morally questionable or corrupt means in pursuing his money.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Tutwater (who in addition to running the town bank is also the Mayor of Dry Gulch) often fills this trope in attempts to block pay increases for Gospel Bill.
  • Outlaw: Primary villain Luther Bedlow.
  • Preacher Man: The pastor of the local church can be seen as a minor character, though depending on the episode Gospel Bill or Nicodemus can be seen behind the pulpit as well.
  • Punny Name: Latecomer Lefty Wright's name.
  • Rancher: Nicodemus' boss; Ferman Farnsworth.
  • Religious Bruiser: Gospel Bill, Nicodemus, Elmer Barnes and Wichita Slim all fit this trope to varying degrees.
  • The Sheriff: Gospel Bill. Later to become a U.S. Marshal.
  • Shopkeeper: Miss Lana, owner of the general store.
  • Undertaker: In addition to being the town barber, this is Lefty Wright's other occupation.
  • Unseen Character: Elmer's pet worms Inky and Dinky.

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