Bonanza

We got a right to pick a little fight Bonanza! If anyone fights anyone of us, he’s got a fight with me.  We’re not a one to saddle up and run Bonanza!

Bonanza is an NBC television western series that ran from September 12th, 1959, to January 16th, 1973.  Lasting 14 seasons and 430 episodes, it ranks as the second longest running western series (behind Gunsmoke), and within the top 10 longest running, live-action American series.  It continues to air in syndication.
The show centers on the Cartwright family, who live in the area of Virginia City, Nevada, bordering Lake Tahoe.  The series stars Lorne Greene, Pernell Roberts, Dan Blocker, Michael Landon, and later, David Canary.
The title “Bonanza” is a term used by miners in regard to a large vein or deposit of ore, and commonly refers to The Comstock Lode.  In 2002, Bonanza was ranked No. 43 on TV Guide’s 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time, and in 2013 TV Guide included it in its list of The 60 Greatest Dramas of All Time.  The time period for the television series is roughly between 1861 (Season 1) to 1867 (Season 13) during and shortly after the American Civil War.
During the summer of 1972, NBC aired reruns of episodes from the 1967–1970 period in prime time on Sunday evening under the title Ponderosa.
The show chronicles the weekly adventures of the Cartwright family, headed by the thrice-widowed patriarch “Ben Cartwright” (Lorne Greene).  He had three sons, each by a different wife: the eldest was the urbane architect “Adam Cartwright” (Pernell Roberts) who built the ranch house; the second was the warm and lovable giant Eric “Hoss” Cartwright (Dan Blocker); and the youngest was the hotheaded and impetuous Joseph or “Little Joe” (Michael Landon).  Via exposition (Bonanza, “Rose for Lotta”, premiere September 12, 1959) and flashback episodes, each wife was accorded a different ethnicity: English (Bonanza, “Elizabeth My Love”; episode #65) Swedish (Bonanza, “Inger My Love”, episode #95) and French Creole (Bonanza, “Marie My Love”, episode #120) respectively.  The family’s cook was the Chinese immigrant Hop Sing (Victor Sen Yung).  Greene, Roberts, Blocker, and Landon were billed equally.  The opening credits would alternate the order among the four stars.
The family lived on a 600,000+ acre (937+ square-mile) ranch called the Ponderosa on the eastern shore of Lake Tahoe in Nevada.  The vast size of the Cartwrights’ land was quietly revised to “half a million acres” on Lorne Greene’s 1964 song, “Saga of the Ponderosa.”   The ranch name refers to the Ponderosa Pine, common in the West.  The nearest town to the Ponderosa was Virginia City, where the Cartwrights would go to converse with Sheriff Roy Coffee (played by veteran actor Ray Teal), or his deputy Clem Foster (Bing Russell).
Bonanza was considered an atypical western for its time, as the core of the storylines dealt less about the ranch but more with Ben and his three dissimilar sons, how they cared for one another, their neighbors, and just causes.  “You always saw stories about family on comedies or on an anthology, but Bonanza was the first series that was week-to-week about a family and the troubles it went through.  Bonanza was a period drama that attempted to confront contemporary social issues.  That was very difficult to do on television.  Most shows that tried to do it failed because the sponsors didn’t like it, and the networks were nervous about getting letters”, explains Stephen Battaglio, a senior editor for TV Guide magazine (Paulette Cohn, “Bonanza: TV Trailblazer”, American Profile Magazine, p. 12, June 5, 2009).

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