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Trivia / Bonanza

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In General:

  • Dan Blocker, who played Hoss, founded the Bonanza Steakhouse restaurant chain. The chain was later bought out by Ponderosa Steakhouse, whose name was also inspired by the TV series.
  • The show was almost canceled before it even premiered due to its high cost and the initial ratings were okay but not spectacular (it often came behind Perry Mason on CBS in the same slot). Nevertheless, it was kept on the air because it was a color show and the picturesque scenes of Lake Tahoe helped fuel color TV sales. NBC was owned by RCA, which owned the patent on color TV and was the only company manufacturing color sets at the time; not coincidentally, they sponsored the first two seasons. note 

Specific Tropes:

  • The Cast Showoff: Pernell Roberts was a talented singer, so several episodes had Adam singing during the plot.
  • The Character Died with Him: Implied with Hoss in several early Season 14 episodes, including "Forever" (Ben mournfully looks at a photo of Hoss on Joe's nightstand, with the camera zooming in on said photo) and "The Initiation" (Ben – angry that a lynch mob is after one of Jamie's friends – shouts out, "I've already buried one son!"). This comes following the unexpected death of Dan Blocker in May 1972 just months before production on Season 14 episodes was to begin. The sequels following the original series would later indicate Hoss drowned in the act of trying to save a woman swept down a river, in a very tragic inversion of the Cartwright Curse.
  • Creator Backlash: Pernell Roberts, a stage actor doing TV for the first time, was not prepared at all for the grueling filming schedule, and also wasn't shy about publicly complaining about the show not living up to his hopes, especially his confusion that three guys in their 30s were still completely beholden to their father. He was also highly annoyed that the producers kept casting white actors to play non-white roles. He left after six seasons, with only a few guest spots afterwards.
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  • Dawson Casting: At the beginning of the series, the 17-year-old Little Joe was played by 22-year-old Michael Landon, and the 23-year-old Hoss was played by the 30-year-old Dan Blocker.
  • Easter Egg: A bizarre reverse example. The theme for Little House on the Prairie was borne from a one-off composition used in Season 12, Episode 17 "Top Hand", which is almost identical. If you listen to the episode after watching the latter series, you'll easily recognize the prototypical version of the theme. This episode aired in 1971, and Little House on the Prairie debuted a few years later in 1974, and this episode, having been produced not too long ago, stuck out because of its appealing instrumental track and received the honor of bearing witness to the theme tune of the new show.
  • Missing Episode: When the show entered syndication in 1973, the original rerun package contained only the first six seasons (complete, minus one 1965 episode), plus select episodes from the eighth through 11th seasons (1966-1970, those considered to be the "most popular" amongst fans); this is the package that airs currently on TVLand. A second syndicated package included 51 additional episodes from 1966-1970 (all but 13 episodes from the eighth through 11th seasons) that stations had the option to buy.
    Then there was a third syndication package, not released until the early 1980s, that included "Lorathio Larkin" (from near the end of the sixth season, the lone pre-seventh season episode that had not yet been syndicated), the entire 1965-1966 season, the 67 episodes from 1966-1970 not included in the original "classic 260" syndicated package, and the final three seasons (1970-1973, which had Mitch Vogel as part of the cast as young teen-ager Jamie Hunter Cartwright) ... those episodes amongst die-hard fans presumed to be "lost. The "lost episodes" pacakge has aired on CBN and the Hallmark Channel.
    It wasn't until 2015 that MeTV, which had aired the original syndication package, began airing the "lost episodes", and — with the exception of WXNE of Boston, starting in 1982 — not until 2018 that MeTV became the first TV outlet to air the entire run of 430 episodes from start to finish as part of a single rerun package.
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  • Non-Singing Voice: In "The Weary Willies," Richard Thomas is dubbed by Michael Martin Murphey.
  • Trope Namer: Bonanza is the trope namer for the Cartwright Curse, the tendency for love interests to die or be written out of a series at a high pace for the sake of drama or to maintain the status quo.
  • What Could Have Been: The original draft of "Forever" had Hoss undergo one hell of a Beware the Nice Ones moment where he tracked down the killers of his fiancee. Thanks to the Actor Existence Failure of Dan Blocker, the episode was revised so Joe would lose his new bride instead. The end result seems to have proven itself to be superior to the original draft, as TV Guide named it one of the greatest television specials ever made in 1993, and the loss of Hoss added to the weight of the drama in the story.
  • Written by Cast Member / Directed by Cast Member: Michael Landon's career as a famous writer/director began on Bonanza. He wrote his first episode in season 3 and had his directorial debut in season 9 — he wrote a total of 20 episodes and directed 14 by the time the series ended.
  • You Look Familiar: Numerous actors appeared in multiple one-off guest roles throughout the 14 seasons. A few notable examples are:
    • James Coburn, who appeared in 3 episodes as three different characters over the first three seasons.
    • Gregory Walcott, who appeared as seven different characters over the course of 7 episodes ranging from season 1 to season 14.
    • Don Collier appeared in five episodes (the most memorable being 'Credit For a Kill' as Sheriff Fenton), and also lent his distinctive voice to provide an uncredited voice-over as the Judge in the series finale.
    • In one particularly squicky example, Geraldine Brooks, the actress who plays Adam’s mother, later returned as a love-interest for Hoss.
    • When he got older, Michael Landon looks matured and changed dramatically. His hair turned prematurely gray due to smoking, and he also let it grow out considerably in the latter years of Bonanza compared to the short hairstyle he wore in the earlier seasons. By the end of the series, Little Joe had become just plain Joe, and he looked more like his new character Charles Ingalls, a middle-aged man whose hair also went gray (full silver, in fact) in the final season of his respective show.


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