“Bonanza” Fans Will Love These Pieces Of Show Trivia

featured-imageGiddyup! With 14 seasons and 431 episodes under its belt, Bonanza is the second longest-running western series in the history of U.S. television. From 1959 to 1973, viewers fell in love with the lives and adventures of the Cartwrights.

Single father Ben Cartwright lived with his three sons on Ponderosa Ranch, a 600,000-acre plot of land on the eastern shore of Lake Tahoe in Nevada. Ben was thrice-widowed—each of his sons was born by a different mother.

Read on to learn behind the scenes trivia and interesting facts about the show and its characters!

15. Ben “Pa” Cartwright

001-15-ben-pa-cartwright-e67e8f09edeb579bbd395953e9db0dbaCanadian actor Lorne Greene played the household’s father, Ben Cartwright. A 2007 TV Guide survey selected Cartwright as television’s #2 favorite father.

Greene died in 1987 after facing complications from pneumonia. He was 72 years old and had just signed to appear in a Bonanza revival with a new storyline.

14. There’s A Replica House

002-14-there-s-a-replica-house-f97593ca331522a2d1f131a8d0096b40The show’s set was so well-loved that Greene himself built a replica. The Ponderosa II home is located at 602 S. Edgewater Drive in Mesa, Arizona, and it’s listed in the Mesa Historic Property Register.

Greene built the home in 1963 as a weekend getaway from Los Angeles. It sits on a half-acre of land and was valued at $849,000 when it was listed on the market in 2016.

13. Bucking Script Trends

003-13-bucking-script-trends-ba68a4d6bc017bd85321548ccc7caef3Television in the Bonanza era often wrote fathers as dimwitted and goofy, usually a foil to a smarter and more capable wife.

Bonanza producer David Dortort sought a different setup and wrote Ben as an admired and intelligent father figure. In order to better explore the show’s characters, Dortort ditched the typical 30-minute program and produced a one-hour show instead.

12. Behind The Scenes

004-12-behind-the-scenes-eeaadb99f0fc3ef5ee6f990c73c34c30Fun fact: The characters on Bonanza never changed clothes! This allowed the show’s crew to utilize stock footage and lower production costs. Stock footage saved thousands of dollars per episode.

Still, the show was one of the most expensive of its day. NBC spent between $100,000 and $150,000 per episode.

One more fun fact: Many of the show’s actors wore toupeés, including Blocker, Robers, and Greene.

11. Michael Landon

005-11-michael-landon-d997d461805a0dd35f1bdffaeeee2cacMichael Landon played the role of Little Joe, the youngest Cartwright. Before starring in Bonanza, Landon worked in a number of small roles in movies and television.

Landon even wrote and directed some of the show’s episodes, and he appeared in all but 14 episodes. Bonanza served as the foundation for Landon’s writing and directing career.

10. A Multitalented Cast

006-10-a-multitalented-cast-cfde0ec91efb898dc0a7f833d2184e0bThe cast members of Bonanza were talented actors, sure, but did you know that they also sang? Four of the Cartwrights worked on a 1964 Christmas album called Christmas at the Ponderosa.

Lorne Greene himself released a single called “Ringo” that topped charts in both the United States and Canada.

9. Adam Cartwright

007-9-adam-cartwright-578445387ce7da3350acf0abeb1cb601Pernell Roberts Jr. played the oldest son, Adam Cartwright. He only worked on Bonanza for six years before leaving the show. Insider knowledge revealed that Roberts’ politics and feelings about the script led to him disliking the show from its beginnings.

Roberts died in 2010 at 81 years old after a battle with cancer.

8. The Show Inspired A Restaurant Chain

008-8-the-show-inspired-a-restaurant-chain-2d188dd9ad67590a5d06872d8a797ce6The Ponderosa Steakhouse and Bonanza Steakhouse are part of a chain of buffet and steakhouse restaurants. The eateries were previously owned by the Metromedia Restaurant Group.

In October 2009, the company emerged from bankruptcy as Homestyle Dining, LLC. As of October 2016, there are 12 remaining Bonanza locations operating in the United States.

7. Eric Cartwright

009-7-eric-cartwright-8f20d32b2a80005380f50aa58606e205Eric “Hoss” Cartwright was played by Dan Blocker. Hoss was gullible, sweet, and perhaps a little slow—the complete opposite of Blocker in his daily life. Blocker had earned a master’s degree and worked in teaching before becoming an actor.

He was the largest baby ever born in his Texas hometown. He weighed 14 pounds at birth and weighed in at 105 pounds by first grade!

Blocker died in 1972 at 43 years old. Producers announced that Hoss would be killed in an accident on Bonanza—the first time in television history that a show dealt with the death of one of its actors.

6. A Slow Start

010-6-a-slow-start-9c0d4bc8eb2b33a1d945c2ab6fa1206dBonanza wasn’t a hit program when it first aired. It saw very low ratings during its first season when it aired on Saturday nights. The show was nearly canceled, but because it was the first show filmed and aired in color, NBC was set on keeping the program alive.

Runtimes were changed to Sunday evenings and the show’s ratings soared. Bonanza became television’s number one program in 1964.

5. Fictional Location

011-5-fictional-location-61acdd9b61fa019acf8c2f25b9a2f8c8Bonanza fans loved the show and many traveled to Incline Villiage, Nevada, where the fictional Ponderosa Ranch was located. Fans quickly learned that there wasn’t a Ponderosa Ranch, let alone anything, really.

By 1965, nearby ranch owners Bill and Joyce Anderson had been approached regularly by tourists asking for directions to Ponderosa. The Andersons contacted NBC and Bonanza creator David Dortort.

4. A Theme Park

012-4-a-theme-park-d51a50a6f899cabab5c31e8d7bac4b94A large theme park was developed in Incline Village, including a complete recreation of the Ponderosa Ranch home. Parts of the show were even filmed at the park!

Business remained strong into the 1990s. The land was purchased in 2004 by billionaire software entrepreneur David Duffield. He closed the theme park within the same year.

3. The Cartwright Curse

013-3-the-cartwright-curse-51aca9da62d096f1487c6ae67d9ccfdbThe series even gave way to a trope that became known as the Cartwright Curse. Any woman who got together with Pa or a Cartwright son quickly disappeared. Some women ran off with other people, while others died by the end of an episode. All of the Cartwrights seemed to be sentenced to the single life.

2. Equal Screen Time

014-2-equal-screen-time-bf44643421fef498d280c6f49eee01b3The four Cartwright men all shared the same amount of screen time. Production staff wanted to ensure that no star overshadowed the other three, so each script was carefully engineered to devote equal time to each of the four stars.

This paid off for Bonanza, leading to a well-balanced show that explored all of its characters in equal depth.

1. Chevrolet Sponsorship

015-1-chevrolet-sponsorship-29e15dd03eda027fbf860b5130379119Much of Bonanza’s income came from its long partnership with auto manufacturer Chevrolet. The car company was the show’s sponsor for nearly every episode, helping to keep the series in production. The show’s main characters also appeared in plenty of Chevy commercials and advertisements over the years.

Bonanza was the first western program on television that chose not to focus on hunting and killing bad guys. Instead, the show’s script focused on character development, as well as issues including racism, prejudice, and social justice.

The show’s success in the United States is indisputable, but that’s not the only place where it garnered an audience. Bonanza aired on television stations in every nation that had a television station, making it the world’s first television production with a global audience.

The show’s cast have all died in the past few decades, but Bonanza still lives on in the hearts of its fans, and reruns air regularly on TV Land.

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