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. While I am far more in favor of season sets, this best-of collection is a might heapin’ helping of tall tales. You’ll find two discs each with four episodes, two each from the following years: 1959, 1962, 1963, 1964.
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.
For the show’s age, one could hardly expect more than the 2.0 track provided on this 2-disc set. For the most part, the dialogue-heavy program is handled nicely by the 2.0 soundtrack. The occasional gunfight comes through clear enough; just don’t look for anything to rival the modern surround fare.
Bonanza is presented in a 1.33:1 full screen format equal to its original production and run. The picture is often grainy and at times quite dark as one might expect from a TV program of its age. The high point has to be that there are times the color comes through in surprising brilliance. Often colors are saturated, but many scenic views hold their own, particularly when water is depicted. Blacks aren’t really very deep or detailed, but this is still a pretty pleasant picture nonetheless.
Unfortunately, no special features have been included on this disc.
I was never a fan of the show, but I surprised myself at how much enjoyment this set actually provided. The pilot is included, which helps to explain the “goings on” at the Cartwright spread. The stories run from the zany “Any Friend of Walters” to the intense “The Crucible”. We even get to meet up with ol’ Mark Twain for a spell. If you’re a fan of the show you won’t want to miss this set. You’ll be happy with the transfers generally, and the episode choice seems to be solid. In any show people have their favorites, and this is certainly no exception. You see, “Everybody’s looking for their own Bonanza”.