Little Joe falls in love with Alice Harper played by a young Bonnie Bedelia who he meets while rescuing her gambler brother John from a poker game gone bad. The two eventually marry and are expecting...
Hoss takes two months of leave. He sees a little black boy steal a candle. He learns the boy wants the candle to make a wish. As he gets to know the boy and his family, he decides to try to help the ...
Bret and Bart Maverick (and in later seasons, their English cousin, Beau) are well dressed gamblers who migrate from town to town always looking for a good game. Poker (five-card draw) is ... See full summary »
The Shiloh Ranch in Wyoming Territory of the 1890s is owned in sequence by Judge Garth, the Grainger brothers, and Colonel MacKenzie. It is the setting for a variety of stories, many more ... See full summary »
Stories of the journeys of a wagon train as it leaves post-Civil War Missouri on its way to California through the plains, deserts, and Rocky Mountains. The first treks were led by gruff, ... See full summary »
The Cartwright's one-thousand square mile Ponderosa Ranch is located near Virginia City, Nevada, site of the Comstock Silver Lode, during and after the Civil War. Each of the sons was born to a different wife of Ben's; none of the mothers is still alive. Adventures are typical western ones, with lots of personal relationships/problems thrown in as well. Written by
Ed Stephan <email@example.com>
Lasting fourteen seasons, this is the second-longest-running Western television series, behind Gunsmoke (1955). It continues to air in syndication. See more »
The story of Bonanza starts in 1859 Nevada but the clothing worn by the cast is invariably 20th century . For example belt loops did not appear on men's trousers and jeans until many decades later. See more »
The opening and closing credits show a picture on the screen that corresponds with whatever credit is being given ("Music by" is accompanied by a man playing a violin, "Written by" has a Mark Twain-inspired writer type holding a book with "Bonanza" written on its cover, etc.) See more »
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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