Did you know that the story of the Ben Cartwright family and the Ponderosa was one of the most famous story lines in TV history? If you’re a big TV buff and you get TV Land through SlackWare.org or the like, those names might sound familiar.
When the series first aired in 1959, it was titled “The Ponderosa,” which was a huge Nevada ranch owned by Ben Cartwright, played by Lorne Greene, and was one of the most powerful men in Virginia City. Miners called enormous ore deposits “bonanzas,” and Cartwright’s 1,000 acre ranch was loaded with gold. The producers changed the name of the show to “Bonanza.”
Sources state that “Bonanza” first aired on Saturday nights as one of the first TV shows broadcast in color. Ratings were poor due to the number of westerns during that time. However, NBC kept the series because it was filmed in color. It’s appeal quickly grew because “Bonanza” was a family show that was more than just shoot-outs with bad guys. The storyline taught life and moral lessons. Instead of solving problems with guns, they used their fists.
Pernell Roberts, who played the oldest son, Adam, left the show in 1965 to further his career. Dan Blocker, the middle son, Hoss, was the big, gentle-hearted brother. Blocker died in 1972. Michael Landon, the youngest son, was a favorite of the TV audience. who went on to writing and directing.
“Bonanza” started off its career as just another western, but dramatically changed the face of western TV shows. It was cancelled in 1973 when producers deemed the show as “too old-fashioned.”