“Bonanza”: The Old West in Living Color


On this date in 1959, the television show “Bonanza” premiered.

Here are some things you may not have known about the landmark Western program.

The series focused on Ben Cartwright and his three sons. Each of the sons was by a different wife.

The oldest son was Adam, whose mother died in childbirth. He was followed by Hoss, whose mother was killed in a raid while the family was heading west. The youngest son was Little Joe, whose mother died in a riding accident.

The show was largely set on the Cartwright’s Ponderosa ranch on the shores of Lake Tahoe in Nevada. The closest town was Virginia City.

Ben Cartwright was played by Canadian actor Lorne Greene. Early in his career, Greene worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. During World War II, he became known as the “Voice of Doom,” as he was frequently given the task of reading the list of Canadian soldiers killed in battle.

Adam was played by Pernell Roberts, who would go on to play the title character in the CBS series “Trapper John, M.D.” Adam was a university educated architect who designed the main house on the Ponderosa. Despite the fact that he played the oldest brother, Roberts was the longest lived of the actors, dying in 2010 at the age of 81.

Hoss was played by Dan Blocker. His nickname was a reference to his large size; Blocker stood 6-foot-4 and weighed 320 pounds. Blocker died in 1972 near the end of the show’s run. He was 43.

The youngest son, Little Joe, was played by Michael Landon. Landon would go on to star in “Little House on the Prairie” and “Highway to Heaven.” He died in 1991 at the age of 54.

Bonanza was initially scheduled on Saturday nights, opposite CBS’s “Perry Mason.” It failed to break into the top 30 programs in its first season.

Ordinarily, a debut like that would lead to a quick cancelation. However, the show was given a reprieve because it was one of NBC’s only shows broadcast in color. NBC’s parent company, RCA, was a major manufacturer of color TV sets.

It was the 17th most popular program in its second season, which started in 1960.

The next season, “Bonanza” was moved to Sundays, where it became the second highest rated show on TV. It stayed in the Top 10 for the following nine years, including three years at No. 1.

In 1972, following the death of Dan Blocker, the show was moved to Tuesday nights, opposite “All in the Family” and “Maude.” The show was canceled two months later. The last episode aired on January 16, 1973.

“Bonanza” remains the eighth longest running American scripted primetime series in terms of number of episodes, with 431.

Our question: What was Hoss Cartwright’s real first name?


Today is United Nations Day for South-South Cooperation, and National Day in Cape Verde.

It’s unofficially National Video Games Day and National Chocolate Milkshake Day.

It’s the birthday of Olympic gold medalist Jesse Owens, who was born in 1913; country singer George Jones, who was born in 1931; and comedian Louis C.K., who is 49.

Because our topic happened before 1960, we’ll spin the wheel to pick a year at random.

This week in 1988, the top song in the U.S. was “Sweet Child o’ Mine” by Guns N’ Roses.

The No. 1 movie was “Moon Over Parador,” while the novel “The Cardinal of the Kremlin” by Tom Clancy topped the New York Times Bestsellers list.

Weekly question

What two shows that are currently on the air are among the Top 10 longest running American scripted primetime series?

Thank you to Ilze Choi for the financial contribution to the show. And thank you to YeOldeBaller for the five-star review on iTunes.


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