Posted in: Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on October 10th, 2012
Three-time widower Ben Cartwright (Greene) runs his famous Ponderosa Ranch with the aid of his three grown sons from three different mothers. There’s Little Joe (Landon), Adam (Roberts) and Hoss (Blocker). Set some time in the mid 1800’s, this long-running series followed the family’s many exploits. In the late 1950’s westerns accounted for six of the top ten programs on TV. Only Gunsmoke had a longer run than Bonanza. From 1959 to 1973, Ben Cartwright and his boys rode across the small screen. Years later in syndication the series re-emerged as Ponderosa, and a handful of TV movies continued the tale into the 90’s.We never have grown tired of the genre that gave us such heroes as John Wayne and Clint Eastwood.
Unlike many of the 1960′s Western television shows, Bonanza was all about the characters. You rarely saw a gunfight. There was often a bit of fisticuffs, but usually it ended with a lesson that violence never pays. The show prided itself on using the Western genre to deliver a family kind of show, and it’s no surprise that series star Michael Landon would use many of the same kinds of stories and lessons on his own Little House On The Prairie. The Cartwrights are always helping widows, the wrongly accused, and the local Indian population. That help often lands them in hot water.
The show would see a lot of characters come and go over the years, but the fourth season saw the original cast pretty much intact. There were some classic episodes and moments to be found. In The Quest, Joe wants to show that he can run things without the help of his brothers. Ben gives him the task of supplying timber to a lumber company, but before long Joe’s very happy to have the help of his brothers. Hoss is arrested for bank robbery by an overzealous sheriff who is trying to prove himself. It’ll mean a hangin’ if the truth doesn’t win out in A Hot Day For A Hanging. Adam finds himself in close quarters with a killer during a storm in The Way Station. A young lady is fascinated by the murderer, and Adam finds himself in a difficult situation. Joe and Adam find themselves on opposite ends of the Civil War movement in The War Comes To Washoe. In Knight Errant Hoss is sent to pick up his friend’s mail-order bride. Things get complicated when the woman falls in love with Hoss instead. Hoss is injured in The Decision. It’s a matter of life or death, and the only doctor is about to be hung for murder. It’s 12 Angry Men in The Jury. Hoss is the lone holdout on a jury. Hoss is once again the subject of a false murder charge in Half A Rogue. This time he’s being framed by the convict who stole his horse. Hoss is hit on the head and suffers from amnesia in A Stranger Passed This Way. When an Italian immigrant comes to the ranch, Hoss befriends one of the sons. He’s in trouble when he unwittingly convinces the boy to give up his career in classical music for the cowboy life. If it looks like Hoss gets all the best stuff, it’s because he does.
Guest stars this season include: Ross Martin, Denver Pyle, Carroll O’Connor, Simon Oakland, Ellen Corby, DeForest Kelley, Robert Vaughn, Dawn Wells, Claude Akins and Barry Coe.
The set includes a skit with Lorne Green and Dan Blocker in their show roles. There are some vintage Chevy ads and plenty of production photographs. The two sets are sold separately, but you can find deals on the full season. Together you get 34 episodes on 9 discs. Join the Cartwright family for yet another trip into the golden age of television Westerns. You can watch one of those imitation Westerns, or you can spend some quality time with the Cartwrights, which “is a dang sight more pleasurable.”