[[quoteright:295:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/bonanza.jpg]]

Archetypal television western which was broadcast between 1959 and 1973, ''Bonanza'' told the story of the Cartwright family, owners of a vast ranch called the Ponderosa:
* Ben Cartwright (Creator/LorneGreene), patriarch of the family, a former ship's chandler from New England
* Adam Cartwright (Pernell Roberts), his eldest son by his first (late) wife. He was the quiet, educated, broody one who dressed all in black.
* Eric "Hoss" Cartwright (Dan Blocker), his middle son by his second (late) wife. He was the affable GentleGiant and usually a peacemaker between his brothers.
* Joseph "Little Joe" Cartwright (Michael Landon), his youngest son, by his third (late) wife. He was the young, hotheaded immature one.

Beyond the core cast of Cartwrights, the program had a vast ensemble of regulars and {{recurrer}}s numbering literally in the hundreds, including at times such current and future famous names as Creator/JamesCoburn, Tim Matheson, Jack Elam, Buddy Ebsen, Mariette Hartley, Tom Skerritt, Creator/HarryDeanStanton, George Kennedy, Creator/BruceDern, Bonnie Bedelia, Dawn Wells, Wayne Newton, Creator/MajelBarrett, Creator/JamesDoohan and Creator/DeForestKelley. Beyond the big name guest stars, there were rarely one-off characters on ''Bonanza'' -- almost every character ever seen, even bad guys, made appearances in at least two episodes; and even nameless extras in the background (such as "Blonde Saloon Girl" and "Brunette Saloon Girl") could and did have multi-year runs playing their characters. In fact, between the length of its time on the air and the scope of its storylines, ''Bonanza'' was virtually a gateway series for talent both new and established looking for television credits.

More than just a "shoot-em-up" horse opera, ''Bonanza'' first exploited and then explored the clichés of TheWestern, eventually evolving into something more than its origins might have suggested it was capable of.

!!''Bonanza'' provides examples of:

* ActionDad: Ben Cartwright isn't afraid to get into his share of fights.
* AsianSpeekeeEngrish: See ChineseLaborer.
* BadassBookworm: Adam Cartwright is the one with the formal education and book knowledge, but he can still more than hold his own in a fight.
* BadassFamily: The Cartwrights.
* BarBrawl: A staple of the Bucket of Blood saloon.
* TheBarber: Virginia City's barber shop gets the limelight in "The Last Haircut".
* BigEater: Hoss Cartwright.
* BigGuyLittleGuy: Hoss and Little Joe.
* BountyHunter
* BroomstickQuarterstaff: Little Joe fences with an umbrella in the pilot episode.
* BurnBabyBurn: The notorious mapburning at the start of the opening credits.
** The 1970 season opener, "The Night Virginia City Died," featured plenty of fire ... the burning of old buildings by an arsonist, that is. The fires were a way to explain the move of filming the series from Paramount to the new Warner Bros. studios.
* CantHoldHisLiquor: This is pointed out verbatim about Little Joe in "Calamity Over the Comstock", although usually he doesn't appear to have a problem.
* CartwrightCurse: The TropeNamer. Ben Cartwright has been thrice-widowed. His first wife, Elizabeth Stoddard, died from complications after giving birth to Adam. His second wife, a Swedish woman named Inger Stevenson (and also Hoss' mother), was killed during an Indian attack. Ben's third wife and the mother of Little Joe, Marie [=DeMarigny=], died from injuries after she fell off her horse.
* CatapultNightmare: Little Joe has one in "The Quality of Mercy".
* CattleBaron: A rare protagonist example of the trope, the Cartwright family are stated to have a 640,000 acre spread and a few hundred permanent (though rarely seen) employees. Moving a few thousand head of cattle to new pastures is a morning's work, and the Nevada mining industry was nearly crippled by Ben's refusal to cut and sell more lumber than he was already providing.
* CattleDrive: Several episodes used this as the main plot -- usually, Ben or someone dealing with rustlers, trying to resolve a problem within a short time, etc. -- or to frame a completely different story. More than once, when an episode focused exclusively on just one or two of the Cartwrights or other regulars and they didn't need the others around, the character would invariably explain that the missing Cartwrights were "away on a cattle drive" (with the given actor either not appearing at all or appearing just briefly at the beginning or end).
* TheCharmer: Little Joe in spades.
* ChineseLaborer: Complete with AsianSpeekeeEngrish
* ChuckCunninghamSyndrome: Some characters are never seen nor heard from again.
* ColdOpen
* CoolOldGuy: Ben Cartwright prefers to stay at home and act as MissionControl to his sons, but when the chips are down he can fight, shoot and work just as well as his boys.
* CousinOliver: The addition of Jamie Hunter Cartwright (Mitch Vogel) to open the 1970-1971 season. As the character of Little Joe began maturing throughout the 1960s, he began to be too old to take Ben's intended-for-teenager's fatherly advice. That, and to maintain interest among younger viewers, justified Jamie's arrival on the Ponderosa. (To be fair, the series continued to be a top 20 hit for two more seasons, with the real dooming catalyst being Dan Blocker's death and a move of the series to Tuesday evenings from its longtime Sunday night home.)
* {{Cowboy}}: Naturally, seeing as the Cartwrights own the largest cattle ranch in Nevada.
* Creator/CharlesDickens: Appears in the episode "A Passion for Justice".
* CreditsGag: Subtle ones. In the end credits for many years (and the opening credits in some early years), they would show drawings of people living in Old West times, doing things the way the credit listed would have done. Such as showing an old man with a fiddle for "music by" (on another drawing, the Livingston-Evans song would accompany a pianist), a man reading a book called ''Bonanza'' for the writing credits, or an old fashioned Daguerreotype camera for "director of photography". The last picture would be of a showgirl on a curtained stage (this picture was the only one used in the final two seasons).
* CriminalDoppelganger: All four of the Cartwrights have one.
** Joe actually has two! Shorty Slade from "The Gunmen", and Angus Borden from "Alias Joe Cartwright".
** Ben's "criminal twin" was a con artist named Bradley Meredith, whose schemes to gain control of the Ponderosa (usually through gambling) come when Ben is out of the area on business. The two episodes featuring Meredith aired as season finales in 1971 and 1972 (with another planned for 1973, had the series continued), and Ben always arrives back home in time to gather enough ammunition to run Bradley out.
* CulturedBadass: The Cartwrights. For all their salt-of-the-earthiness and willingness to get their hands dirty, the Cartwrights have fashionable town-clothes, a large, lavishly but tastefully decorated home and modern, expensive weapons. Ben Cartwright is also partial to fine French wines, Château Lafite in particular.
* DarkIsNotEvil: Adam's main outfit is completely black, occasionally with a splash of color, and he's probably the broodiest of the bunch. Yet he's still loyal to his family and won't hesitate to help anyone in need.
* DeadpanSnarker: Adam is typically the one to take on this role.
* DeathGlare: Ben Cartwright is quite skilled in death glares; a particularly outstanding one can be seen in the final scene of "The Gift".
* DefeatMeansFriendship: Hoss and Arnie become fast friends in ''The Ape'' after fighting to a draw. Due to a misunderstanding, neither one of them knew what they were actually fighting over.
* DistinguishedGentlemansPipe: Ben is occasionally seen with one, as befits both a patriarch and a former sailor.
* DistressedDude: All the Cartwrights have found themselves held hostage at some point. Little Joe is certainly the worst offender.
* DownerEnding: It's not uncommon in dramatic episodes for a good character to die within the last minute of the episode's runtime.
* EarlyInstallmentWeirdness: The Cartwrights in the early episodes often confronted strangers in the Ponderosa in a hostile fashion with guns drawn. Lorne Greene convinced the producers that since the Cartwrights are such major landowners and a major business interest in the region, they logically would be more hospitable to visitors for economic, social and political purposes.
* EvilUncle: Inger's brother Gunnar.
* FamilyBusiness: The Ponderosa
* MrFanservice: Adam, Joe, and Candy. The last two in particular spend a ''lot'' of time [[HotMenAtWork working shirtless]].
* FastestGunInTheWest: Little Joe has an exceptional quick draw.
* FauxAffablyEvil: Many of the VillainOfTheWeek displayed this, with [[spoiler: Gerald Eskith]] being a notable example.
* FeudingFamilies: The Mahans and the Clarks in "Blessed Are They".
* FiveManBand:
** TheHero = Ben
** TheLancer = Little Joe
** TheBigGuy = Hoss
** TheSmartGuy = Adam
** TheChick = Hop-Sing
** TheSixthRanger = Candy
* ForgottenThemeTuneLyrics:
--> "We chased lady luck, 'til we finally struck Bonanza.
--> "With a gun and a rope and a hat full of hope, planted a family tree.
--> "We got hold of a pot of gold, Bonanza.
--> "With a horse and a saddle, and a range full of cattle,
--> "How rich can a fellow be?"
* FourthDateMarriage: Happens frequently, often, and at least twice to each of the main characters, although the altar isn't always reached by the time it's [[StatusQuoIsGod called off]]. Justified a little by the fact marriages often did occur with haste back in the 1800s.
* FourTemperamentEnsemble:
** Ben = Choleric
** Adam = Melancholic
** Hoss = Phlegmatic
** Little Joe = Sanguine
* FrontierDoctor: Paul Martin.
* FunnyForeigner: The ChineseLaborer Hop Sing -- though [[SocietyMarchesOn nowadays]], [[OnceAcceptableTargets not so much]].
* TheGamblingAddict: Helen Layton, who'd driven her husband to drink himself to death over her gambling debts, and latched onto Hoss as her new {{sugar daddy}}. When she was exposed, she left town with another man.
** In the 1972-1973 season premiere "Forever," Little Joe's tragic bride Alice Harper has a brother, John, who is a hopeless gambling addict on the run from a ruthless gambler named Sloan. Sloan and his henchmen kill both John and Alice when they break into the home of Joe and Alice Cartwright (when Joe wasn't home) in an attempt to collect the debt.
* GentleGiant: Hoss Cartwright.
* GhostTown: A literal one, in one episode.
* GorgeousPeriodDress: Frequently, and [[LimitedWardrobe often turns out to be the same dress]].
* GreenAesop: Quite frequently. The Cartwrights took their stewardship of their land seriously, refusing to allow activities that were not sustainable (such as over-logging) and it was shown in multiple episodes that whenever they did cut down a tree, they planted a new one to replace it.
* HangoverSensitivy: Little Joe in "The First Born" after he and Clay get drunk off pulque.
* HenpeckedHusband: Enos Milford in "The Hayburner".
* HighHeelFaceTurn: Lotta Crabtree, a young actress from the first episode. Though she wasn't really evil to begin with, she was originally hired by a gang of crooks into seducing Little Joe so they can take the Cartwright property for themselves. However her feelings for him were genuine. This causes her to feel guilt and remorse for her role in the plot, and is even willing to go against her employers in order to help Joe escape. She is later seen at the end attending a dance with him and enjoying herself.
* HistoricalInJoke: A few. The Cartwrights were directly involved with the invention of the honeycomb timbering for silver mines and the water pumping windmill, for example.
** In an early episode, gold prospectors were complaining about the blue clay that was gumming up their equipment -- it was never revealed in-story that it was silver ore.
** Real life historical figures from the West - like Mark Twain, Albert Michelson, and Emperor Norton - would make guest appearances.
*** Chronology their presence in the show is reasonably accurate historically. Twain's first appearance coincides with the time he was working as a newspaperman in Virginia City, Nevada. Michelson is shown as a young Jewish schoolboy from Germany in the same town, subject to antisemitism, which he was in real life. Michelson gets an extra coda showing what he did in real life.
* HollywoodHealing: Considering the number of times Little Joe was shot/stabbed/trampled by horses/otherwise injured over the course of the series, it's amazing his body was still functional. And let's not even talk about how none of those injuries so much as even left a scar.
* HorsebackHeroism
* HuntingTheMostDangerousGame: "The Hunter," the final episode of the series.
* ImprovisedWeapon: Little Joe fencing with an umbrella in "A Rose for Lotta".
* {{Instrumental Theme Tune}}: An absolute classic example of this trope.
* ItWillNeverCatchOn: The motorized car in "The Infernal Machine".
* JustAFleshWound
* TheLadette: Calamity Jane.
* LimitedWardrobe: From about the third season onward, the main characters wore the same costume in just about every episode. This was done to cut the cost of re-filming action shots (such as riding clips in-between scenes), as previously-shot stock footage could be reused.
* LongRunner: Take a look at the top of the page and count how many years it was on the air....
** For many years its run made it only the second longest running primetime American drama after ''Series/{{Gunsmoke}}'' before being surpassed by ''Series/LawAndOrder'' (20 seasons, itself tied with ''Gunsmoke'') and ''Series/{{ER}}'' (15 seasons) though only the former had more episodes.
* LongLostUncleAesop: Many episodes.
* ManOfWealthAndTaste: Visitors to Virginia City from the east are frequently these.
* Creator/MarkTwain: Appears in the first season to write for the Territorial Enterprise.
* MissingMom: Not just one would do, as all three of Ben's wives died not long after giving birth to each son.
* MonkeyMoralityPose: Hoss, Joe, and Adam pull this pose in "Ponderosa Matador".
* MountainMan: Jim Leyton.
* NeverGoingBackToPrison: Hoss once took in a prison escapee who was obsessed with never going back.
* NeverLearnedToRead: Child, in the episode "Child," was illiterate. Sadly, this means [[spoiler:he went a long time not knowing what his name was (and going by "Child" because that's what everyone called him) until Hoss read the inscription in his Bible]].
* NonIdleRich: The Cartwrights are the wealthiest people in Virginia City, but they're frequently seen doing menial labor around the ranch.
* NotSoFakePropWeapon: In one episode Hoss get framed for murder when the blank rounds from a prop gun get switched for real bullets and the blanks turn up in his saddle bag.
** During a friendly fencing match, the button covering the point comes off and Joe is very nearly stabbed.
* OnlyKnownByTheirNickname: Candy's given name is never revealed.
** Additionally, Hoss is very seldom referred to as "Eric".
* {{Outlaw}}: Plenty make appearances throughout the series.
* OverprotectiveDad: An occasional one who often causes more pain for their children than they protect them from. Not Ben Cartwright, though he is a PapaWolf who'll do any for his sons.
* PapaWolf: Ben Cartwright, especially toward Little Joe.
* ThePatriarch: Ben Cartwright.
* PonyExpressRider: Little Joe becomes one in "Ride the Wind".
* PoorlyDisguisedPilot: "Sam Hill" starring Claude Akins, a blacksmith who reunites with his long lost father. It was intended to jumpstart a spinoff series but it never materialized.
** Also "The Avenger," though not as overt as "Sam Hill" was.
* {{Posse}}: All the main characters have been in one at some point.
* PrettyBoy: Little Joe.
* PrimAndProperBun: Amanda in "Ponderosa Birdman" wears her hair "like a schoolmarm."
* ProWrestlingEpisode: "Old Sheba".
* PuddleCoveringChivalry: Attempted in "The Wooing of Abigail Jones". It does not work out as planned.
* [[PutOnABus Put On A Stagecoach]]: When Pernell Roberts left the show, his character Adam was said to have moved to Australia, and then almost never mentioned again.
* RaceLift: The real Virginia City was a popular destination for freedmen escaping the South, especially during the time the show was set. Yet few blacks were ever shown on ''Bonanza'', even as walk-ons. Pernell Roberts said he left the show in part specifically because of the RaceLift.
* {{Rancher}}: The Cartwrights and all the cowboys on the Ponderosa.
* RealLifeWritesThePlot: Dan Blocker's death in the last season.
* ReallyGetsAround: Little Joe is either seen or mentioned to be involved with upwards of ''fifty'' women over the course of the show, and his reputation as a reckless ladies man gets him into trouble quite a bit in the earlier seasons.
* RearrangeTheSong: The driving, rock-oriented version of the theme song heard in later seasons.
* RecycledSoundtrack: Unusually for the time, averted - every episode had an original score (mostly by David Rose, although his scores tended to avoid the theme song by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans). Combined with it being filmed in color from first show to last (a rarity for a series which began in 1959), it must have cost NBC a fortune. Safe to say they've made their money back now, however.
** Bonanza was actually [[UrExample the first]] television series both filmed and broadcast and color. Earlier shows had been filmed in color but broadcast in black and white (i.e. ''Series/TheAdventuresOfSuperman'']] or broadcast live in color but recorded on black and white film (one episode of ''Radio/TheBurnsandAllenShow'').
* RememberTheNewGuy / NewNeighboursAsThePlotDemands: Marriette Blaine is like a sister to them! Why haven't we seen her before?
* ReplacedTheThemeTune: Yes, it happened; creator/executive producer David Dortort, who never much liked the Livingston-Evans theme song thanks to its lyrics (which is why they were never heard on the show), asked his composer of choice David Rose to write a new theme - it was used for [[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mto4YU_1WxE seasons 12]] [[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NhFw-PRTDaU and 13]] before viewer demand led to the first song coming back for the final season.
* RunningGag: Several...
** Little Joe just can't seem to keep his feet off the table.
** Hoss often can't remember which word he's looking for, and will look to Joe for help.
*** Once happens while the two characters are debating; Little Joe provides Hoss with the word he's looking for, then they jump right back into the debate.
** A lot of people seem to think "Candy" is a funny name. He doesn't seem to mind.
** In the episode "The Flapjack Contest" poor Little Joe just cannot stop breaking windows.
* ScareChord: Frequently used when a character pulls out a gun.
* SerialRomeo: All the Cartwrights have a tendency to consider the girl of the week to be the love of their life.
* TheSheriff: Roy Coffee.
* ShirtlessScene: All the Cartwright men and Candy get their fair share.
* ShotAtDawn: Narrowly avoided in "Alias Joe Cartwright".
* ShotInTheAss: Little Joe gets shot "right in the middle of the Ponderosa."
* ShoutOut: Music/FrankZappa covered the theme from this show on his album ''Music/TheBestBandYouHeardInYourLife'' (1988).
* SingleTear: Michael Landon excelled at these, so it's really no surprise that Little Joe favors this method of showing emotion.
* TheStoic: Adam, usually.
* StoutStrength: Hoss.
* StarCrossedLovers: Little Joe and Amy Bishop, naturally, as the episode was intended as a bit of a Romeo and Juliet retelling.
* StrawVulcan: Gerald Eskith, from the episode ''Badge Without Honor'', talks a lot about how emotions are the cause of most problems. [[spoiler: In his dying moments, he laments that he was defeated by emotion]].
* SyndicationTitle: ''Ponderosa''.
* TemporaryBlindness: Joe in "The Stillness Within".
** Tessa Caldwell in "Bullet for a Bride".
* TemporaryLoveInterest: Virtually every woman the Cartwrights came in contact with, usually because they would die by the end of the episode.
* WallOfWeapons: A literal wall in the Ponderosa living room with a dozen or so guns lined on it.
* TheWestern
* WesternCharacters: Used virtually all of them at one time or another.
* WhyDidItHaveToBeSnakes: Little Joe is terrified of heights.
* TheWildWest
* TheWorfEffect: Joe is subjected to this when Gerald Eskith wins a fencing match against him.
* WorldsStrongestMan: Hercules in "The Abduction".
* YouKilledMyFather: The driving motivation in "The Legacy".

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