''Bonanza'' is an NBC television western series that ran from September 12, 1959, to January 16, 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. The show continues to air in syndication.
The show is set around the 1860s and it centers on the Cartwright family, who live in the area of Virginia City, Nevada, bordering Lake Tahoe. The series stars Lorne Greene, Dan Blocker, Michael Landon, Pernell Roberts (who left after six seasons), and later David Canary and Mitch Vogel.
The title "Bonanza" is a term used by miners in regard to a large vein or deposit of ore,〔(【引用サイトリンク】title=Bonanza – Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary )〕 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,〔(【引用サイトリンク】title=TV Guide Names Top 50 Shows )〕 and in 2013 ''TV Guide'' included it in its list of The 60 Greatest Dramas of All Time.〔Roush, Matt (February 25, 2013). "Showstoppers: The 60 Greatest Dramas of All Time". ''TV Guide''. pp. 16–17.〕 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 Tuesday evening under the title ''Ponderosa''.〔Brooks, Tim, and Earle Marsh, ''The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946-Present (Sixth Edition)'', New York: Ballantine Books, 1995, ISBN 0-345-39736-3, p. 123.〕
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.〔mentioned in first scene of first episode〕 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 range 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).
Episodes ranged from high drama ("Bushwacked", episode #392, 1971; "Shanklin", episode #409, 1972), to broad comedy ("Hoss and the Leprechauns", episode #146, 1964; "Caution, Bunny Crossing", episode #358, 1969), and addressed issues such as the environment ("Different Pines, Same Wind", episode #304, 1968), substance abuse ("The Hidden Enemy", episode #424, 1972), domestic violence ("First Love", episode #427, 1972), anti-war sentiment ("The Weary Willies", episode #364, 1970), and illegitimate births ("Love Child", episode #370, 1970; "Rock-A-Bye Hoss", episode #393, 1971). The series sought to illustrate the cruelty of bigotry against: Asians ("The Fear Merchants", episode #27, 1960; "The Lonely Man", episode #404, 1971), African-Americans ("Enter Thomas Bowers", episode #164, 1964; "The Wish", episode #326, 1968; "Child", episode #305, 1969), Native Americans ("The Underdog", episode #180, 1964; "Terror at 2:00", episode #384, 1970), Jews, ("Look to the Stars", episode #90, 1962); Mormons ("The Pursued", episodes #239-40, 1966), the disabled ("Tommy", episode #249, 1966) and "little people" ("It's A Small World", episode #347, 1968).
Originally, the Cartwrights tended to be depicted as put-off by outsiders. Lorne Greene objected to this, pointing out that as the area's largest timber and livestock producer, the family should be less clannish. The producers agreed with this observation and changed the Cartwrights to be more amiable.
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