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 fifth season saw the original cast pretty much intact. There were some classic episodes and moments to be found. The 5th season begins with She Walks In Beauty and wouldn’t you know it, an attractive young woman comes to town who is used to using men to get what she wants. Of course, Adam and Hoss both fall for the girl with the expected comical and serious results. Charles Dickens (played by Dr. Smith himself, Jonathan Harris) visits Virginia City in A Passion For Justice. He’s upset that the local paper is printing his work without consent or payment. This actually was a crusade that Dickens went on during an American visit. There were no international copyright laws, and he was losing a fortune having his work published here. And who do you think champions his cause here? You guessed it, Ben and the boys back up the famous writer. Joe is left for dead in the desert when he enters a ghost town in Twilight Town. The spooks come out in this rather odd supernatural episode. You’ll find it not quite like any other western episode you’ve seen…that wasn’t hosted by Rod Serling, that is. Another famous visit to the ranch can be found in Calamity Over Comstock. Calamity Jane is brought to the spread by Joe, who made a vow to take care of her to her dying father. In Journey Remembered we get a rare look at Ben’s early life. He finds an old journal he kept years ago, and it causes him to remember time he spent with one of his wives. This also happens to chronicle the birth of Hoss. The Laura Dayton character is introduced for the first time in The Waiting Game. Her husband has been killed, and Adam falls in love with the young woman who is trying to keep the tragic news away from her young child. Comedy is the name of the game in Hoss And The Leprechauns. Hoss claims he was given a special box by the mythical little folk. In Alias, Joe Cartwright Joe happens to look like an army deserter and is sentenced to be shot.
Guest stars this season include: James Luisi, Dennis Hopper, Faith Domergue, Marlo Thomas, Denver Pyle, James Best, Stefanie Powers, Jonathan Harris and Gena Rowlands.
CBS did a better than average job on this release. Once again you have the option of buying both half sets together and get an entire season. There are 15 to go, but we’ll get there. They also added some extras to spice up the set, which include Audio Commentaries. This is also a great season of the show. Rarely do you find such an eclectic collection of episodes in one show’s season. There’s comedy, international intrigue, romance, and even some supernatural elements. Of course, there’s plenty of Ben, Joe, Adam, and especially Hoss. “Now, entertaining as they usually are, I just don’t have no time for a Hoss Cartwright explanation!”