Bonanza

1959 | United States

Take the tried and tested lead-slinging, two-fisted, appeal of the western genre and mix it with the potently powerful and enduring values of family loyalty, honour, square dealing and unswerving respect for what's right -and what do you get? You get a phenomenally successful television series of legendary status named: Bonanza. Running for 14 years on it's native NBC network, Bonanza was set on the vast Ponderosa timber and cattle ranch in Nevada in the 1860's. The ranch was inhabited by three times widowed Ben Cartwright (Canadian actor Lorne Greene) and his three sons, all from different deceased mothers. Adam, Hoss (Norwegian for 'good luck' in tribute to his Scandinavian mother), and the youngest of the trio, Little Joe. A number of other characters to feature regularly included Virginia City Sheriff Roy Coffee, and the Cartwright's Chinese chef Hop Sing. There were few cast changes over the series run, but the most notable was Pernell Roberts, eldest son Adam, who left the series after six years. 

The show was notable for being the first TV Western to be shot in colour and was filmed in the Lake Tahoe area. A major success on both sides of the Atlantic and sold to over fifty other countries, Bonanza was finally bought down by the untimely death of the immensely popular Dan Blocker, the last show, the 430th in the series, aired on 23rd January 1973. Re-runs can still be seen today and a British Cable network recently began running the series starting with the first episode from 1959. Several misguided attempts have been made to revive the format; there was a TVM in 1988 (Bonanza: The Next Generation), which featured an entirely new cast including the son of the now deceased Michael Landon (Michael Landon Jnr), and a short series a few years later. Along with Gunsmoke, Bonanza stands as the quintessential embodiment of US television's long-standing affair with America's most enduringly romanticised historical period. 

Published on November 30th, 2018. SRH (2000).

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