Bonanza (TV Series 1959–1973) Poster


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great western
the_oak20 August 1999
This series is great for many things. The Cartwrights are righteous, hard working and well respected. They work from early in the morning until they sit down for dinner, eating meat and potatoes. Dan Blocker was Texas heaviest baby when he was born, and Little Joe (Michael Landon) always comments on how much he eats for dinner. Pernell Roberts is very cool as Adam, and Lorne Greene, playing Ben Cartwright depicts a very noble and respectable man. Under the scorching sun they meet problems like racism, indians and every other problem you could expect those days. Great entertainment. A TV-series like this will never be made again.
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An Influential Western
Sargebri15 October 2003
This was probably one of the more influential western series of all time. Along with "Gunsmoke" this also was one of the longest running series in the history of television. The thing that made it great though was that it was able to get better over time. For example, in many of the early episodes, Ben and his sons had an almost antagonistic relationship with anyone who came on their property. In fact, the Cartwrights had an almost shoot first, ask questions later attitude to any stranger that might wander onto the Ponderosa. However, when Lorne Greene suggested that the Cartwrights become more hospitable, that's when the show began to take off. Also, the Adam, Hoss and Joe weren't on the best of terms with each other during the show's early days, but as time went on the three of them grew closer and showed their affection towards each other, especially Hoss and Little Joe. But the thing that really made it great was the fact that the cast and crew were able to go from serious drama to some very light hearted episodes and make it more than just a western but a family drama with stories that could easily fit into any era. This is really a show for the ages.
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The Cartwrights Of The Ponderosa
bkoganbing4 September 2009
It got to be a running joke around Bonanza about how fatal it was for any women to get involved with any Cartwright men. After all Ben Cartwright was three times a widower with a son by each marriage. And any woman who got involved with Adam, Hoss, and Little Joe were going to end up dying because we couldn't get rid of the formula of the widower and the three sons that started this classic TV western.

Perhaps if Bonanza were being done today the writers would have had revolving women characters who came in and out of the lives of the Cartwrights. People have relationships, some go good, some not so good, it's just life. And we're less demanding of our heroes today so if a relationship with one of them goes south we don't have to kill the character off to keep the survivor's nobility intact. But that's if Bonanza were done today.

But we were still expecting a lot from our western heroes and Bonanza though it took a while to take hold and a change of viewing time from NBC certainly helped, the secret of Bonanza's success was the noble patriarch Ben Cartwright and his stalwart sons. Ben Cartwright was THE ideal TV Dad in any genre you want to name. His whole life was spent in the hard work of building that immense Ponderosa spread for his three children. The kids were all different in personality, but all came together in a pinch.

The Cartwrights became and still are an American institution. I daresay more people cared about this family than the Kennedys. Just the popularity that Bonanza has in syndication testifies to that.

Pernell Roberts as oldest son Adam was written out of the show. Rumor has it he didn't care for the noble Cartwright characters which he felt bordered on sanctimonious. Perhaps if it were done now, he'd have liked it better in the way I describe.

This was just the beginning for Michael Landon, how many people get three hit TV shows to their credit. Landon also has Highway to Heaven and Little House On the Prarie where he had creative control. Little Joe was the youngest, most hot headed, but the most romantic of the Cartwrights.

When Roberts left. the show kept going with the two younger sons, but when big Dan Blocker left, the heart went out of Bonanza. Other characters had been added on by that time, David Canary, Tim Matheson, and Ben Cartwright adopted young Mitch Vogel. But big, loyal, but a little thick Hoss was easily the most lovable of the Cartwrights. His sudden demise after surgery left too big a hole in that family.

So the Cartwrights of the Ponderosa have passed into history. I got a real taste of how America took the Cartwrights to heart when I visited the real Virginia City. It doesn't look anything like what you see in Bonanza. But near Lake Tahoe, just about where you see the Ponderosa on the map at the opening credits, is the Cartwright home, the set maintained and open as a tourist attraction. Like 21 Baker Street for Sherlock Holmes fans, the ranchhouse and the Cartwrights are real.

And if they weren't real, they should have been.
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Learn from one of the best TV Westerns!
mbuchwal1 March 2005
Feature film makers have many lessons to learn from this classic western serial. Although each episode was made on a small budget when compared to the Hollywood "A" features of today, all of the production values of great classic movies of the golden age -- painterly composition and design, emotionally effective acting, lyrical music, suspenseful storytelling, beautiful timing, strong dramatic dialogue, elegantly choreographed action, powerful themes, colorful period costumes, folksy comic relief -- all of these values were at a consistently high level from show to show, with never an awkward effect or a misfit scene. Each of the featured characters was drawn in a unique and stylish way, suggesting the storybook characterization that distinguishes the best of the Hollywood golden age. Every one of the episodes stands well as a feature length movie in its own right and would look as good on the big screen as on TV. There's plenty of feeling, no padding or softness, and no mindless experimentation with technique or vulgarity such as has ruined so many westerns made since 1970.

It's difficult to understand why an approach which succeeded for so long was abandoned in the 1970's by both television and feature film makers. Many producers turned instead in the direction indicated by spaghetti westerns. Compared to classic westerns like "Bonanza," spaghetti westerns were much less lyrical and took more of a gutter eye view of the old west, stripping it of its romantic appeal and substituting what to a misguided new generation seemed a dirtier and therefore more authentic realism. In retrospect, Hollywood gave up way too much for the little that it got in return. The success of a vast body of works similar in appeal to "Bonanza" (including many of the other action adventure TV serials made from the '40s to the '60s) is proof that there is a widespread taste that is radically different from the one which has predominated in Hollywood since the '70s. Let's hope that one day we'll see the return of Bonanza's classic values to the screen.
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Quality Production, Character Stories; A Memorable Family Western
silverscreen88829 September 2005
"Bonanza" was the first hour-long TV show in any genre produced in full-color. The continuing cast for the first 6 years featured essentially five persons--Benjamin Cartwright, his three sons and their Chinese cook, along with the local sheriff. Cartwright had been a seaman, who went west and married three times; each time he produced a son and lost his wife. Reaching the ponderosa pine country near Virginia City, Nevada and Lake Tahoe, he built up a large landholding, with cattle, timber, and mines, becoming an important man in the territory. Ben Cartwright was played by Canadian announcer-actor Lorne Greene, who was much younger than the part he played but had Shakespearean training and a powerful speaking voice. Pernell Roberts played his eldest son, Adam, a thoughtful but restless man, 1959-65. Eric "Hoss" Cartwright was portrayed huge Dan Blocker as a man of gentle ways and grit but ordinary intelligence. Attractive Michael Landon played "Little Joe", fast with a gun and learning to be a man; he also write and directed episodes for the series. Victor Sen-Young was Hop Sing, and veteran Ray Teal played Sheriff Roy Coffee. Later, others were added to the series for various stretches, once Adam's part was written out; these included David Canaray as Candy, Bing Russell, Harry Holcombe, Guy Williams, Kathie Browne, and Remo Pisani. Each week guest stars were hired, and a few actors were used in dozens of shows. Among the most memorable guest stars were John Larkin, Ruta Lee, Joan Hackett, Frank Overton, Bruce Yarnall, Inga Swenson as Inger, Ben's second wife, Felicia Farr as his third wife, Grandon Rhodes, Patricia Donahue, Robert Lansing, Lisa Lu and Steve Forrest. Titles such as "The Honor of Cochise", "The Eden Train", "Inger, My Love I,II", "Right is the Fourth "R"", and "The Mountain Girl" among many others bring fond memories. Many directors toiled on "Bonanza", whose title referred to the rich ore found in the Virginia City area during the nineteenth century. The list included Lewis Allen, Leon Benson, William F. Claxton, Herschel Daugherty, Don McDougall, Christian Nyby, Leo Penn and William Witney. Principal writers for the series, with 5 or more credits, included Robert V. Barron, Frank Chase, Suzanne Clauser, Frank Cleaver, the producer David Dortort, Warren Douglas, John Hawkins, Ward Hawkins, Arther Heinemann, Michael Landon, Jo Pagano, Stanley Roberts, Robert Sabaroff, Jack B. Sowards, Thomas Thompson and Al C. Ward. It is difficult to characterize the show except that it was a consistently second-rank attempt to do stories about first-rate ethical people living in an interesting era in a frontier setting. It was the first of the family-oriented westerns, and at the same time a show capable of detaching its principals for dual or independent adventures. If few of its episodes risk to great dramatic heights, many are far-above-average film-making efforts, even by feature-film standards. The production featured clean, straightforward cinematography, Nellie Manley's hairstyles, Wally Westmore's makeup, enjoyable costumes and expert sets, art direction and action scenes. If the family spent too much time at home, seldom were shown with cattle and had virtually no employees, the writers made up for such derelictions by involving the sons and the father in the affairs of town and territory. Innovatve and perhaps inimitable, this was quality dramatic western making from start to finish.
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The Great Western
sonny_196322 May 2005
"Bonanza" aired on NBC in September of 1959. Filmed in color, it was put in the 7:30 PM slot on Saturday nights so that people in the appliance stores could see it on the television sets and be convinced to buy an RCA color television. The ploy worked.

In 1961 it was moved to Sunday nights after NBC realized they had a hit on their hands. It lasted another 13 or so years before being canceled. But it is a landmark in television history.

One suggestion - if you ever find a DVD of "Bonanza" and an episode titled "To Die in Darkness" is listed, don't hesitate to buy the DVD. The episode guest-starred James Whitmore and was filmed in about the mid-1960s. All I will say is that the episode was probably the best of the series.
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A great long-running western series that rode out the troubled 1960's
AlsExGal10 October 2010
Bonanza explores the adventures of the Cartwright family consisting of three-time widower Ben Cartwright and his three sons Adam, Hoss, and Little Joe. Ben is a self-made man who has carved out a piece of Nevada - a large piece - as a prosperous ranch. Each of Ben's sons has a different mother and a very different background. Adam's mother is from New England, Hoss' mother had Scandinavian roots and met Ben out on the Great plains when Ben and Adam were on the way west after Ben's first wife died. Little Joe's mother was a southerner from New Orleans. This difference in roots is explored even in the first season when Little Joe almost joins the Confederate army after having someone come into town and stir up his feelings for his southern roots. However, the full story doesn't come out until later. There is one episode each in seasons two, three, and four that are dedicated to telling the story of each of Ben's wives.

This first season follows the successful road map that all of the seasons did. Many have a guest star that is recognized even today. For example, Yvonne De Carlo is the guest star in the very first episode. Alan Hale Jr. (The Skipper of Gilligan's Island) also makes the first of several guest appearances he will make over the years during the first season.

Most episodes involve heavy-hitting drama often involving some injustice which the Cartwrights, with their prominent place in the community, are in a place to right. The show often used the fact that it was set in the old west to explore some of the social issues of the 1960's without stirring present-day controversy. However, there are a few almost completely comedic episodes here and there. The odd thing is, nobody did comedy as well as Bonanza did when Bonanza decided to do comedy, and usually Hoss is at the center of it all.

The show never really produces a long story arc. Each episode pretty much stands alone. The show really had only two disruptions. The first, which didn't prove fatal to the show, was when Pernell Roberts left in the late 1960's. His "place" was taken by Candy. Candy was not another son - he was a hired hand, but he was also a trusted friend of the Cartwrights.

The second disruption probably was fatal by most accounts. Dan Blocker, who played Hoss, died suddenly of a heart attack in 1972. The show only lasted one more season before it was canceled. Blocker's character of Hoss wasn't the most handsome of the Cartwrights in the conventional sense, but he was the heart and very much the sense of humor of the show. His loss was irreplaceable.
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Facts about the show "Bonanza" The 60th Anniversary
rcj536517 December 2007
1. The series produced an astounding 431 episodes-all filmed in full color. "Bonanza" became the second longest-running western in television history right next to "Gunsmoke" which lasted more than 20 years on the air.

2. Ran for 14 years on NBC-TV from September 12,1959 until the final episode on January 16,1973. Executive Producer and Creator of this series was David Dortort. Episode 1:"A Rose For Lotta"(Airdate:9-12-59). Episode 431:"The Hunter"(Airdate:1-16-1973,the final episode of the series).

3. It was schedule during seasons 1-2 on Saturday nights from September 12,1959 until June 3,1961.

The show moved to Sunday nights during seasons 3-13 from September 24,1961 until April 2,.1972. It was here between 1961-1967,that the show had a solid lock in the ratings becoming the Number One show on television. It remained in the top ten of the Nielsens from Seasons 9 thru 12 between 1967 to 1971.

The fourteenth and final season saw the series moved again from Sunday nights to Tuesday nights in an earlier time slot from September 12,1972 until the final episode of the series on January 16,1973

4. Only actors Lorne Greene,Michael Landon,Ray Teal and Victor Sen-Yung remained throughout the show's astounding 14-year run. Pernell Roberts remained with the show during seasons 1-6 with Roberts' last episode of the series "Patchwork Man"(Episode No. 202)which aired April 4,1965. Dan Blocker who played Hoss died unexpectedly toward the end of the show's 13th season in 1972

*David Canary played "Candy"(Seasons 8-12 and 14)(1967-1970 and 1972)

*Mitch Vogel played Jamie Hunter Cartwright(Seasons 12-14 from 1970-1973)

*Tim Matheson played hired hand Griff King(the show's 14th and final season)

*Lou Frizzell played hired hand Dusty Rhodes (Seasons 12-13,1970-1972)

The original episodes:Seasons 1-6 from 1959-1965. The lost episodes Seasons 7-14 from 1965-1973.
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Magnificent classic western features noble, close knit family
roghache29 April 2006
I grew up on this classic western series, and as a child always considered it a treat being allowed to stay up late on Sunday evenings to watch it. Bonanza is still infinitely re watchable in re runs.

The series chronicles the adventures of the Cartwright family, who live on a ranch near Virginia City, Nevada around the Civil War era. Their ranch (called the Ponderosa) is run and defended by the widowed father, Ben, and his unmarried three sons, Adam, Hoss, and Little Joe. These three brothers have different mothers, all of whom have passed away years earlier.

The Cartwrights are a hard working, prosperous, and honourable family, highly respected in those parts. The Ponderosa is large so reaching its extremities requires a lot of horseback riding. Also, trips away are often necessary in order to buy or sell cattle and so forth. Needless to say, few of these excursions pass uneventfully. Although hospitable, much of the Cartwrights' energy must be spent defending their ranch from interlopers, or protecting themselves from townsfolk jealous of their prosperity and stellar reputation. The Cartwrights do a fair bit of firing their guns up in the air and such, but only shoot to kill when deemed absolutely necessary. They are involved in various town affairs, even the political life of the Nevada territory.

One of the main assets of the series is the underlying warmth that is always present (despite occasional disagreements) between Ben and his three sons, and (despite frequent disagreements) between the three brothers. Now, one brother might beat up another every now and then, but generally has a good reason for it at the time and his anger never lasts long! The characters are all very well drawn. Ben is portrayed as a successful and noble man of great integrity. The oldest son, Adam, the most rational and suave of the brothers, left midway through the series. The middle brother, Hoss, is a gentle giant of a teddy bear, who has an insatiable appetite for food and is a little shy around the ladies. The youngest, Little Joe, is a hot headed, handsome charmer who, by contrast, has quite a way with women. This trio of brothers enjoy various romances but their love interests are typically killed off by the end of the episode or else marriage proves impossible, for whatever reason.

The actors are all stellar in their roles, including Pernell Roberts (Adam), Dan Blocker (Hoss), Michael Landon (Little Joe), and of course Lorne Greene as the principled family patriarch, Ben. I also love the ranch cook, Hop Sing, played by Victor Sen Yung.

This is a wonderful action packed western with great values. The Cartwrights are always the noble heroes and most of the bad guys quite villainous. If only there were more programs like this vintage western on TV these days!
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I miss this kind of show today
wlb19 January 2009
Although this show has been off the air since 1973, after viewing a DVD set I borrowed at our library, I felt compelled to say a bit about it.

I can remember when it was the only color show on television in the 1960s, and sometimes there would be a little "Sunday Night Party" with friends to watch this on NBC on one of the few color televisions.

I really enjoy history not so much for the names and dates but how it influences us today and how so much can be so profound based on the most inconsequential actions of the time. Case in point: Virginia City, Nevada, which became one of the richest cities in the world because of the silver, got its name from a character named "Old Virginny", who, in the town's early days, stumbled out of a saloon, fell and broke his whiskey bottle.

Old Virginny didn't want to waste the occasion so as the precious liquid was seeping into the dirt he decided to christen the town "Virginia Town". The area became known as the Comstock Lode because another character, Henry Comstock, had the reputation of trying to jump everyone's claim and the area became known as the Comstock Lode.

I just watched an early episode that dealt with these 2 subjects. Other episodes dealt with Mark Twain's literary rise while a reporter for the Territorial Enterprise...

It was wholesome (and frequently educational) family entertainment. As someone else remarked, each episode would really be considered a movie in its own right - rich scripts and characters.

One thing it twisted the truth on was the proximity to Virginia City and the Ponderosa. In truth, to ride from the Ponderosa (all of Northern Lake Tahoe), one would have to ride his horse about 3,000 feet (1,000 meters) down the Spooner Summit to the high desert (3,000-4,000 feet) of the Carson Valley then another 30-40 miles to Virginia city.

Needless to say the Cartwrights would have some sore rear ends doing this on a regular basis. But every writer should have some leeway with the truth.

How I miss that show, even today.
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The second longest running TV Western Remembering Bonanza on its 60th anniversary
raysond19 January 2001
As a child growing up,I can recall seeing every episode at least a dozen number of times and can fondly recognize all the characters on the show. "Bonanza" was that show. For the 14 years that it ran on NBC,it has become television's second longest running western series,and the only TV show that was presented in "living color" throughout its run. The show was the equilavent of My Three Sons,with the exception that it was in the rolling hills of Nevada during the turn of the 1800's. Only during its run that Lorne Greene and Michael Landon were the original two cast members that stayed on the series in which Landon produced and directed several of the episodes. Only two other members left the show at the peak of their fame when it was in the top ten for the duration of the show(which was #1 in the Nielsen ratings during much of the 1960's). Pernell Roberts,who played big brother Adam left in 1965(final appearance on April 4,1965),and Dan Blocker who played the mighty Hoss Cartwright died unexpectedly near the end of the show's 13th season leaving actors Lorne Greene and Michael Landon to remained hroughout the show's 14th and final season for the 1972-1973 season. By the start of the 1967-1968 season ranch hand Candy played by David Canary was hired and became part of the family. Three years later Canary left the series and later returned in the final season. Other members including Dusty Rhoades(Lou Frizzel) and later Jamie Hunter(Mitch Vogel) were added to the cast.

Bonanza premiered on NBC on September 12,1959 and it was the first ever prime time series to be filmed and produced in color. A total of 431 episodes were produced with the first two seasons were on Saturday nights frtom September 12,1959 until June 3,1961. Seasons 3 thru 13 were on Sunday nights from September 24,1961 until April 2,1972. Between seasons 6 thru 8 the show had a solid lock in the ratings from 1964-1967 and remained in the top ten of the Nielsens from Seasons 9 thru 12 from 1967 until 1971. The 14th and final season saw the show moved to Tuesday nights from September 12,1972 until the final episode of the series on January 16,1973. Seasons 1 thru 12 were filmed at Paramount Studios. Seasons 13 thru 14 were filmed at Burbank Studios of Warner Brothers Pictures.

Orginally written on January 19,2001 but was revised on September 12,2019 in commemorate of the show's 60th anniversary
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Look at it, Adam!
vaudreyvil28 April 2003
Forty-four years later, I still recall the first line of the first episode of Bonanza. The 14-season debut opened with Ben Cartwright and Adam--just the two of them--riding up to a ridge overlooking the vast expansive glory of the Ponderosa. Horses stopped, Ben turns to his eldest son, stretches forth his hand, and issues "Pa's" first command ... "Look at it, Adam!"

Adam looked. For about 14 seconds.

And so did this young viewer.

It would require, however, another 14 years of "looking" before a 14-year-old boy would come to fully comprehend the treasure Adam beheld in the single moment he, and we, first laid eyes on that majestic, resplendent land of the Cartwright Bonanza.
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This show is addicting!
darkangel_162724 January 2009
I know this sounds odd coming from someone born almost 15 years after the show stopped airing, but I love this show. I don't know why, but I enjoy watching it. I love Adam the best. The only disappointing thing is that the only place I found to buy the seasons on DVD was in Germany, and that was only the first two seasons. That is disappointing, but that's OK. I'll keep looking online. If anyone has any tips on where to buy the second through 14th seasons, please email me at I already own the first one. The only down side is that the DVDs being from Germany, they only play on my portable DVD player and my computer. Oh well. I still own it!
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Reflecting 50's Idealism!!
dataconflossmoor18 May 2007
When I was born, this television series was the number one show on T.V.!! America epitomized the feat of the ultimate fatted calf country with big ambitions, limitless potential, and a very comfortable economy!! After a big Sunday dinner, why not sit back and watch "Bonanza", IN COLOR!!! This homey western evokes an American tradition which accompanies the complacency of the typical U.S. household during the era in which it was viewed.. The breathtaking cinematography of Lake Tahoe symbolized an infinite prosperity of the emerging American culture!! Western Movies were so popular that Western Television Shows followed suit!! This was a period in time in our country which yearned for a concise reflection on our own country's struggle for survival!! The end result of the trials and tribulations at the Ponderosa Ranch, as demonstrated in this series, sparked a realization that Americans are now auspiciously enjoying the fruits of the Cartwright's painstaking labor!!

The T.V. Show "Bonanza" was popular for so many different reasons, mostly on account of the fact that the late fifties and early sixties had not yet established the divisiveness of two different cultural mindsets which was ready to surface with our nation! The unification of ideologies in the United States which prevailed during the debut of "Bonanza" was a big reason for the show's success!! In the show's later years, "Bonanza" had established a firmly entrenched core market television audience!! The cast to "Bonanza" became famous, and the wholesome entertainment of "Bonanza" encompassed a camaraderie for the All-American idealist!! Everybody liked "Bonanza" and a lot of Americans totally loved it!! Reflecting on rough and tumble family values is a favorite past time of many Americans, and the television show "Bonanza" was perfect for that frame of mind!! I liked the show a lot, and most people I know like it as well!! Certainly, my entire family loved "Bonanza"!! This show was one of the all time American classics in the history of television!!
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Bonding with my sons
bojomojo24 July 2015
I am currently 55 and my twin sons are 14 at the time this post was made in July 2015. Bonanza has been a family bonding experience for us. We are fortunate to have 2 cable channels that run Bonanza in episode order! As a child I lived through most of the original Bonanza run - although my Dad was not a fan of Westerns and preferred watching the NY Mets on TV. I discovered Bonanza in syndication when my sons were 6 years old and DVR the show daily for us to watch at night. It has the distinct honor of being Wife approved and she also never misses an episode. We just returned from our vacation at the Rocking Horse Ranch in Highland, NY and they have over 80 horses. We saw one horse named Bonanza and another horse called Lil' Joe. We love Bonanza the TV series and are grateful to view it on a daily basis. I have never seen seasons 1 & 2.
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great western that needs repeating
gina-baker7117 July 2009
It ran from 1959-1973. Its more than its longevity that says a lot for this series. Its also that it survived changes in fashion and taste from the 50's , psychedelic 60's and remained popular in the 70's.

I remember repeats of this series. It was a successful combination of all its elements from stories, cast and productions that made it exceptional. Lorne Green had his defining iconic character from this series. Its appeal was across generations. All members of the family could enjoy this. It balanced morality with violence, humour with seriousness. A cartoon series was made as a spin off from this as a result of its impact. The shame is that this series is no longer repeated and many will not know its significance.
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A Trailblazer
rhklwk-124 February 2010
My comment is limited generally to the first season, 1959-60.

This superb series was one of the first to be televised in color, and it was highly influential in persuading Americans that they had to buy a color television set, which was about $800 in 1959, the equivalent of more than $3,000 today. How many of us would pay that much for the privilege of watching a show transmitted by a cathode ray picture tube on a 17-inch screen? I was eleven when the series began, and I watched it from the beginning.

Watching it now, 50 years later, several things come to mind. First, many of the story lines involve the Comstock Lode and the heyday of silver mining, which dates to 1859. For 1859, the weapons and clothes are, for the most part, not authentic. (The haircuts are left out of the discussion.) That's basically a nitpick.

And, it would have been impossible for Ben to have arrived in the Lake Tahoe area in 1839 and to have amassed a 100-square mile ranch in the next twenty years. Pioneers were still trying to solve the Sierra Nevada problem as late as 1847, and the Gold Rush did not even begin until two years later.

Indians are not played by Native American actors. John Ford was using Native American actors in the 1920s. The Bonanza producers could have easily done so thirty years later. That is a major nitpick for me.

There are other time-line problems. In Season 1, Mark Twain appears, and he is depicted as a middle-aged man. Mark Twain was 24 years-old in 1859. The stories also vacillate between 1859-1860 (pre-Civil War) and what was more suitable for an 1880 time-frame. There are continuity problems, over and over.

It is somewhat off-putting, too, that there is so much killing in the first season. In time, the killing was reduced.

Many of the episodes take a socially liberal slant, which would be hard to believe, given the time-line, but give the writers credit for anticipating the seismic shifts in the Nation's attitudes beginning in the 1960s.

Having said all that, the acting is good, and I have come to conclude in my latter years that Adam's character was drawn better than any other's. I don't think Pernell Roberts ever got the credit he deserved. Also, Season 1 reinforces the fact that Dan Blocker (Hoss) was a good actor.

Many of the stories trace real historical events. The guest stars were interesting.

This was great family entertainment, and the series stands up very well by any measure.
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Best show ever!
Bonanza, even with all of its flaws, is the best TV show ever made. All four actors are perfect for their characters. It is the only show(western), that one minute can be totally serious and the next uproariously funny. To anyone who might be new to the show- I'm not sure how but i guess its possible, the comedic episodes for the most part are the must see episodes. #1 has to be Ponderosa Matador(1963), #2 is the episode Woman of Fire(1965)-loosely based on Taming of the Shrew, which also happens to have my Great Uncle as the father- Don Miguel(played by Jay Novello)#3 would be Hoss and the Leprechauns(1963),#4 is the hilarious-The Wooing of Abigail Jones(Pernell Roberts sings extensively, in the unedited version.) There are also many fine dramatic episodes- including the Legacy(1963), and the War comes to Washoe. Also a must see is the pilot episode, where you get to see the characters as they were originally intended to be, by creator David Dortort. It has no actual title but goes by the title "a Rose for Lotta"- guest starring Yvonne Decarlo of Munsters fame. Some interesting tidbits are that Michael Landon was the only one with a full head of hair- He colored his though because his went gray by age 20. Both Lorne Greene and Pernell Roberts wore hair pieces that were constantly changing(from the very beginning), and Dan Blocker wore a partial and or sprayed his head starting in 63 or 64. I never get tired of watching my favorite episodes(I have about 200 or so on tape). My uncle also appeared on an episode from 1969 entitled A lawman's Lot is not a Happy one.- also a very funny episode- He plays a con man pretending to be a butler/valet. It is really to bad that the shows bosses could not make Pernell happy, because the show was not the same without him. Thats all- by the way after Bonanza my favorite and the best shows are #2 MASH, #3 Star Trek, #4 I Love Lucy, and #5 The Twilight Zone. Anyone one would be hard pressed to come up with better shows, Seinfeld is #14 for me. 6-10- Northern Exposure, Star Trek TNG, Quantum Leap, Cheers, and The Avengers(long live Emma Peel and Tara King(38/25/36) whoa! T. Part 2-It is 7 years later, and I am adding more- MASH is the only other show to be able to have equal parts humor and drama. Unfortunately, after Pernell left, the comedy episodes became more ridiculous and were a lot more infrequent. Pernell actually wanted to leave after the first season. He was the most liberal of the group(which is ironic because he was from Georgia), and he didn't like many stereotypical aspects of the show, that he thought could be vastly improved. The show started in 59', several years before the civil rights movement really took hold of the country. Also, unlike today where seasons are 8-16 episodes; back then it was 32. It was extremely grueling on everyone-They would film for 5 and a half days; usually 16 hr days. Then process and edit etc...There was no time for a break. Plus episodes back then were 47-50 min.vs 40-42 now. Pernell was not ready for the hard core assembly line of TV back then. He was mostly a stage and movie actor. Not only that, but the actors also did commercials for Chevy and promo appearances, and even records. All of that was part of their contracts. He felt( and deservedly so), like cattle. The money was not that important to him vs. everyone else, and he just got burned out. That coupled with what he thought was NBC and the producers ignoring his quality script ideas for the show, made him increasing dissatisfied. Now, in reality , they did listen somewhat-they even hired Lee Marvin for an episode where Adam has a nervous breakdown, after Marvin's character goes insane and treats Adam like a pack mule..Def. one of Pernell's best performances. They continued to try and make him happy by giving him many episodes where he didn't appear or only briefly, but it wasn't enough for him, because he felt trapped by his contract. Back then, a star of a show was not allowed to do anything else. Today that doesn't exist, as star TV actors basically control everything. The show had a big lull in it after he left, and even though the show lived for 8 more seasons, it was clearly lacking. Had the show been made a decade later, things would have been much different. Lastly, both MASH and Bonanza had many, many back story and historical errors, including years and time constantly changing, and back story characters dying and living etc...It seems completely ridiculous to think that they could get away with that, and I don't think they could now-of course the worst is got to be DAllAS when an entire season was a dream!! Still, there are so many great Bonanza episodes to watch, that it trumps all the errors. Everyone has to see my list of the top 5!!!!
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Best TV western ever (?)
jacksonc3 March 1999
Bonanza may be the best tv western ever; however in my book it gets competition from Gunsmoke and Rawhide, among others. Still, it is a great one. Be advised that some so-called tv trivia experts state that the part of Hoss Cartwright's mother was played by the late Inger Stevens. How this gets started, I don't know. That part was played by Inga Swenson...
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Great series.
northernlightstm24 March 2016
I love Bonanza the bits. Every episode seems like a film. Hoss Cartwright and Joe Cartwright are my favourite characters. Although Ben Cartwright is cool too. I love the time Bonanza plays in. It describes Virginia City in it's prime. Some characters in the series are real and got honored in this show. I like the friendship between Joe Cartwright and Hoss Cartwright. Alsow in almost every episode there is a girl, who falls in love with one of the Cartwright's boys. It doesn't matter in which episode you begin. Every episode has it's own special story. I also like The Ponderosa. It is beautiful. Although too many people get hanged. Though I believe that's how it was back then.
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American version of THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV
redryan6424 August 2014
AS BIG AND sprawling a series as was the fictional 'Ponderosa', BONANZA managed to live long enough to see itself sort parody itself. Starting with the earlier seasons, the drama was big time, exciting and very much watched and talked about. We saw the sons all find "true loves" only to loose them by death or to other dudes in frontier Nevada.

AFTER THIS HAPPENED umpteen times, it became apparent that the production team and cast was strictly,. just "phoning it in" and were able survive into another season by virtue of its own momentum. It was as if the series were in a sort of "Holding Pattern"; or was becoming automatic.

NOT THAT WE didn't watch, for we did. The characters and their interplay made them seem to be people who we really know. We had Lorne Greene as Ben, the patriarch of the family with his three adult sons, incidentally all sired by pop with three different wives. Ben had been widower thrice, you know.

THE THREE SONS were (as if you didn't know)were Adam (Pernell Roberts), Hoss (Dan Blocker) and Little Joe (Michael Landon_). Others appeared from time to time, but Victor Sen Yung had the most longevity as the family cook, Hop Sing.

BUT JUST AS there was trouble on the Ponderosa, so there was on the series. Pernell Roberts did some grumbling about the series and after some time in persisting in this course, he was written out. Adam was said to have gone to live in San Francisco.

WITH ALL OF our criticism, we would also like to give credit where it is due. BONANZA managed to reach a sort of plateau inn popular culture which put it on par with Baseball, Hot Dogs, Chevrolet, Bob Hope and Norman Rockwell paintings.
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Groundbreaking and Amazing Western, but has its flaws.
keelhaul-8085612 September 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Bonanza was an awesome show, that really was ahead of its time(sometimes a bit too much, in its revisions of history). It featured some black and Asian ppl, and many other groups as a part of the magnificent tapestry of the West, and touched on many exciting frontier topics. To me, the show was more grounded and realistic in earlier episodes, and some later ones. There was a period(as the show went on for so damn long!) where the writers seemed to drop acid and then do a story at the last minute, and the gear was anachronistic and crazy at times. I always noticed that many episodes were supposed to be taking place before the Civil War, or around that time, yet every guy on the show has a lever-action rifle like a Winchester! I realize that the Henry rifle and others came out around that time, but it is very unlikely that every goofball and cattle thief on the Nevada frontier would have these things, as they were mainly used by US military units in small quantities.

Then there were a bunch of episodes where Hoss or Joe would meet some nutty inventor or leprechaun, or vampire, or gypsy, etc. and a bunch of campy silliness and cheesy music would ensue. The show was on for so many years that it undoubtedly ran into trouble with new ideas, but man, did it get super cheesy in places.

Another funny problem was that they never wanted to introduce a new character or love interest, and actually keep them! Seriously, I bet 5,000 women died or mysteriously left at the end of one or two episodes, leaving the brothers or Ben broken-hearted, but somehow "better" for the experience. Like, couldn't they just surprise us once, and have a new member join the cast and marry one of the brothers? If I was a woman, I wouldn't go anywhere near this family, as you are 99% likely to die, be kidnapped, or have to make a difficult life choice to leave and disappear. Cousin Will was one of the few exceptions to additional characters they kept, but he isn't a woman.

Another funny thing they played out was the way the town or state viewed the Cartwrights. On one episode, the whole state would be trying to get Ben elected to governor, or very supportive of his problems, and in debt to him for helping the entire community. On the next episode, the entire town would be trying to sabotage the family, and everyone hated them.

Other flaws-- Sheriff Roy Coffee(who replaced other earlier lawmen) was the most useless and comical old guy on the show. "Now Ben, I know you and your boys are great people, but we may have to just hang Little Joe if someone accuses him of a crime this week." Roy never got anything done, or solved a case-- it was always the Cartwright boys coming to his or the town's rescue, but he always had some "Dr. Phil" type wisdom or just plain dumb stuff to say about everything. He was so lame it was actually funny, in an unintentional way.

Overall, way better than many shows on TV, and it broke ground in many diverse areas, but some really cheesy years as well. Still, a guilty pleasure that delivers if you're bored, or want decent family entertainment with basically good morals.
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A Classic
hackraytex29 June 2017
Bonanza. A well made family oriented western that hit all of the marks allowed at that time. If we were not in church on Sunday night for some reason, we watched Bonanza.

Having said that, I do not wish to speak ill of the dead but I cannot bring myself to watch it now. More than then, I enjoy programs that promote family values. There was a remake of it a few years ago called "Ponderosa" that only lasted two years and should still be going but that is fodder for another review.

I cannot watch Bonanza for the same reason Pernell Roberts left the series. He said it could have been a lot better if the bean counters were not totally focused on wringing every dollar out of it. They could have replaced him after a couple of years but the three remaining stars did not want to divide the pie in four pieces again. His leaving disrupted the rhythm of the show and the hole was never filled successfully. Also, it looks like about that time, Michael Landon was running everything. It was on for 14 years and none of the sons (before Dan Blocker's tragic death) grew or progressed in their characters. The show was stuck in a time warp and such a path for a show would not succeed today. In other words, after 5+ years, three adults sons would not still be living in the home place with their father and still acting like they were not quite adults yet. Like Pernell Roberts said, he felt that Adam should marry and have his own house, maybe on another part of the Ponderosa and start his own family.

It was not safe to be a woman who fell in love with a Cartwright. She would either die or fall in love with someone else, or one of them would change their mind. Also, I would not write Adam as they did in that he was a bit stuck on himself. It was a given that Hoss was not as smart as Adam but today, that would not be a source of amusement as it often was then. He certainly was not stupid. By the time 12 years had arrived: Adam, Hoss, and Joe would have married and started families. Remember, they got there around the time of the Mexican-American war and people got married and started families a lot earlier then than they do now. By that time, Ben would have probably taken a fourth try at marriage. If anyone wants to try to do Bonanza again, hopefully they will take these things into consideration.
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Good Family Values Series
xlars16 November 1999
Bonanza is a great western series, containing family values – wish we had more like it – though there are a few funny things and a couple of goofs in there. In a couple of early episodes "Samuel Clemens/Mark Twain" visits Virginia City. In a later episode He is called to be a character witness for the Emeperor Norton of the USA – but it is a different person, with totally different looks. The first is a relatively young man, the second the old-looking Mark Twain. Ben Cartwright, however, has not aged a
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