Here are 10 things you didn't know about Bonanza

Bonanza is widely regarded as one of the most cherished American television series in history. The show, created by David Dortort, had a winning formula of a western setting, thrilling stories, family drama, and occasional humor. 

This winning combination kept the show on the air for an unusually long time. Today is a significant milestone as it commemorates the 60th anniversary of its debut. Allow me to present a retrospective on 10 intriguing facts about the show. 

1. The cost of the color was quite high. 

Almost getting cancelled early on, Bonanza faced challenges due to its larger budget. Nonetheless, it was the inaugural show filmed and aired in color, and RCA (which was the owner of NBC at that time) utilized the show to generate enthusiasm for color televisions. The series was able to flourish thanks to a shift from a Saturday time-slot to a Sunday spot. 

Number 2. The top 5 for 9. 

The captivating tale of rancher Ben Cartwright, his sons, and the thrilling events that unfold on their Ponderosa ranch, resonated deeply with viewers. Bonanza achieved a remarkable feat by remaining in the Nielsen top five for a continuous span of nine seasons. 

3. That Darn Gunsmoke 

With a remarkable run of 14 seasons from 1959 to 1972, Bonanza has secured its place as one of the most enduring primetime shows in history. This show is the second longest-running western, just behind Gunsmoke in the genre. The Simpsons is the longest-running scripted primetime series of all-time, and it is still going strong. 

4. The theme song included lyrics. 

The theme song did have lyrics, although they may not be apparent from the opening credits or the version shown in syndication. Interestingly, it had multiple sets of lyrics, with one even written by series star Lorne Greene. Johnny Cash performed a rendition that included his own lyrics. There was actually a sequence filmed for the pilot episode where the cast sang the song, but unfortunately, it was cut. 

5. There Was a Limit on Cartwrights 

At the time of the show's launch, the main emphasis was placed on Ben Cartwright (Lorne Greene) and his three sons: Adam (Pernell Roberts), Hoss (Dan Blocker), and Little Joe (Michael Landon). Roberts expressed some dissatisfaction with the demanding schedule of network TV.

 At the time, the show followed a 34 episode-per-season model, which was more intense compared to the 22-episode model that became more common in later years. Additionally, he had some reservations about his character and contemplated leaving the show. The producers kindly brought in the highly acclaimed Guy Williams (known for his role as TV's Zorro) to portray cousin Will Cartwright for a short period. 

However, after appearing in five episodes, Roberts made the decision to continue with the show, resulting in Williams being reassigned (rest assured, he soon gained immense popularity as the beloved space father, Dr. John Robinson, in Lost in Space). Nonetheless, Landon and Greene politely expressed their preference that any new male leads introduced should not be Cartwrights. 

This was to ensure that the network wouldn't suddenly replace any of the lead actors with another "family member." After Season 6, when Roberts departed, the male leads who joined the cast, including David Canary who portrayed Candy in 91 episodes, were not adult Cartwrights. 6. Women Had Short Lives 

Being a woman around the Ponderosa was quite unsafe. Ben Cartwright experienced the loss of his spouse on three separate occasions, resulting in him having three sons from three different mothers. 

 The Cartwright men had a number of romantic partners, but unfortunately, none of them stayed for long and several of them either passed away or departed from the town.

 Interestingly, Roberts's Adam character was initially planned to depart with a new wife and daughter. However, when the actor chose to stay, the producer ingeniously resolved the situation by having the woman develop feelings for his character instead. This cleverly allowed for an exit for all three characters. 

7. The passing of Blocker accelerated the conclusion of the show. 

Blocker unfortunately passed away unexpectedly in May of 1972.

 Tragically, after undergoing gall bladder surgery, Blocker developed a pulmonary embolism which ultimately led to his untimely demise. Entering its 14th season, attempts were made to accommodate for the absence of the kind-hearted giant. Canary was brought back and a new character, Griff, played by Tim Matheson, was introduced to add a touch of youthfulness. The show was cancelled by the network due to declining ratings. 

 Both Landon and Greene later expressed their belief that the show had lost something essential and irreplaceable when Blocker, and his character Hoss, passed away. Michael Landon Jr. spearheaded a revival of TV movies. 

Following its years of successful syndication, Bonanza made a comeback on TV through three TV movies. 

 In 1988, Bonanza: The Next Generation featured Michael Landon Jr. portraying Benjamin Cartwright, the son of his father's character. Given the unfortunate passing of Lorne Greene, the creators decided to introduce Aaron Cartwright, portrayed by John Ireland, as the new patriarch. Landon Jr. returned to his role in two additional TV films in 1993 and 1995. Landon Jr. currently holds the position of a director and producer, focusing on his role as the executive producer of the successful Hallmark show When Calls the Heart and its spin-off When Hope Calls. 

9. Another Legacy Cast Member Besides Landon Jr. 

Gillian, the daughter of Lorne Greene, portrayed Jennifer Sills, Benjamin's romantic partner, in the initial TV movie. In addition, she pursued her passion for filmmaking by directing movies. She is happily married to Sam Raimi, the renowned director of Spider-Man and Army of Darkness. Dirk Blocker, the son of Dan Blocker, made appearances in the TV movies as Fenster. He has since become a regular cast member on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, portraying Detective Michael Hitchcock since the show's first season. 

10. A prequel series was also produced. 

Dortort, who continued his work well into the 2000s, created a prequel for the PAX-TV network (now ION). He brought on board Beth Sullivan, renowned for her work as the creator and executive producer of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, to lead the series as showrunner and writer. 

 The series took place a decade prior to the original, showcasing a younger Ben Cartwright alongside teenage versions of Hoss and Adam, as well as a younger Little Joe. The show only ran for one season, from 2001-2002, and unfortunately, it was cancelled due to low ratings and high costs. 

Bonanza is widely regarded as one of the most influential shows in television history. It enjoyed a remarkable run as a primetime drama and became a beloved symbol of the western genre. The genre still thrives on TV today with contemporary shows like Yellowstone and streaming series like Frontier. 

However, the legacy of the Cartwright family's saga holds a special place in the hearts of fans who grew up with the show or discovered it later in syndication. 

 Given the current trend of frequent reboots and remakes, it wouldn't be unexpected if a new iteration of the Ponderosa emerged to carry on the narrative. 


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