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 season has some memorable episodes, to be sure. The Witness finds the Cartwrights protecting the witness of a murder, only to find out they may be protecting the wrong person. Another witness could be the end of the rope for Candy when he’s accused of murder on the eyewitness testimony of a young boy. It happens in The Silence At Stillwater. Can the Cartwrights jog the kid’s memory before it’s too late? Hoss gets to find out what it’s like to be in charge in A Lawman’s Lot Is Not A Happy One. He gets to be acting sheriff and finds out even the simplest of problems might not be so easy to resolve. During a long stage ride to the Pondarosa, Hoss is mistaken for a famous outlaw because a local tall-teller has spun one of his yarns. In Dead Wrong, a bit of storytelling could be the end of Hoss. In Danger Road, Ben needs help hauling some large timber. He’s about to hire a man until he learns they served on opposite sides during the Mexican War. Can Ben overcome his personal feelings and get the timber hauled? In The Long Way To Ogden, Ben helps the small ranchers stop a meat packer from buying the rail line and freezing out all of the competition. Ben is shot and injured in a small town in Mexico. When he shoots his attacker, he must now contend with the attacker’s son. He might not have a leg to stand on, and it’s all in Decision At Los Robles. Finally a little levity in Caution Easter Bunny Crossing. Hoss takes on the costume of the iconic rabbit to entertain kids at an orphanage and ends up dealing with an outlaw gang while dressed in the silly attire.
Guest stars this season include: Vincent Van Patten, Vic Tayback, Art Metrano, Bruce Dern, Sally Kellerman, Mariette Hartley, John Crawford, Richard Stahl, Robert Lansing, William Sylvester, John Astin, Morgan Woodward, Dabney Coleman, Victor French, Susan Howard, Steve Forrest, Guy Stockwell, Gene Tyburn and Jill Townsend.
CBS started to pack in some extras in the previous release, but this one goes back to a bare-bones kind of title. There are promos and original ads, but very little else in this collection. Again the season is split into two releases. Look for a combo pack and you’ll get all 28 episodes on seven discs. Do I wish CBS would release them together? Absolutely. But you might put up with it to have these classic shows on your video shelf. Right now we’re all looking for some classic stuff to fill our days. ” ‘Cause we ain’t got nothin’ else to do.”