DVD Review: Bonanza (The Official Fifth Season Volume 1 & 2)

The fifth season of a show marks success in the world of television. But it also means a time when the producers want to add new elements to the show. They can’t afford viewers thinking the formula is stale. They might change locations. A new child often gets added to the family. They needed a new character on Bonanza. While Ben Cartwright (Lorne Greene) had three sons from three different wives, the producers weren’t ready to give him a fourth wife and kid. A small child would gum up the adult nature of the show. So they brought in a grown cousin who could give Hoss (Dan Blocker), Little Joe (Michael Landon) and Adam (Pernell Roberts) a run for the suave money. What dashing actor could match the Cartwrights? How about Zorro? Guy Williams leaves his mark at the Ponderosa on Bonanza: The Official Fifth Season, Volume One & Two.

Guy Williams arrived in a dramatic fashion for “Return to Honor.” The family gets news that their cousin Will has died. He was just down the road at Pine City when he met his fate. Except when Ben shows up to pay his respects at the graveyard, he finds Will. The guy’s been shot up. He brings him back to the Ponderosa to heal. But there’s more trouble on the way since Will was shot by his pals that were running a counterfeiting operation. They might want to find him since he pocked their plates. Cousin Will looks to be trouble beneath his mustache. “The Roper” gives the show over to Will. He’s hanging out on the ranch alone when military troops transporting a prisoner drop by. Their prisoner is hurt so Will rushes off to get a doctor. While he’s gone, outlaws free the prisoner except they don’t ride off. They lay in wait for Ben Cartwright so they can get inside the family safe. It’s up to Will to save the family.

Will’s old pal from Mexico arrives at the ranch for “The Companeros.” He’s eager to have Will head back over the border for one more adventure. Except there’s something wrong with the invitation. Can Will avoid vacation in Mexico? “The Pressure Game” and “Triangle” are really a two part story. The pressure is on for Laura Dayton (Kathie Brown) to get Adam to put a ring on her. But can she really get a Cartwright to settle down? The romance gets tangled when Laura meets Cousin Will. Will Adam pull the trigger before Cousin Will scores a new wife? This marks the end of Cousin Will’s time on the Ponderosa.

Williams was supposed to replace Roberts on the series. After they’d hired Williams and started to transition Adam off the show, Parnell and the producers came to an arrangement to keep him around for season six. They didn’t want to mess with the formula after all. There was no need for a fifth Cartwright so Williams hit the trail. But don’t feel bad for Guy Williams. He was immediately snatched up to play the father in Lost In Space. Oddly enough, “A Passion For Justice” featured Jonathon Harris as Charles Dickens. He’d join Williams in the Jupiter 2 as Dr. Smith. Bonanza: The Official Season Five gives the complete saga of Cousin Will.

The Episodes
Volume 1
“She Walks in Beauty,” “A Passion for Justice,” “Rain from Heaven,” “Twilight Town,” “The Toy Soldier,” “A Question of Strength,” “Calamity Over the Comstock,” “Journey Remembered,” “The Quality of Mercy,” “The Waiting Game,” “The Legacy,” “Hoss and the Leprechauns,” “The Prime of Life,” “The Lila Conrad Story,” “Ponderosa Matador,” “My Son, My Son” and “Alias Joe Cartwright,”

Volume 2
“The Gentleman from New Orleans,” “The Cheating Game,” “Bullet for a Bride,” “King of the Mountain,” “Love Me Not,” “The Pure Truth,” “No Less a Man,” “Return to Honor,” “The Saga of Muley Jones,” “The Roper,” “A Pink Cloud Comes from Old Cathay,” “The Companeros,” “Enter Thomas Bowers,” “The Dark Past,” “The Pressure Game,” “Triangle” and “Walter and the Outlaws.”

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The color transfers bring out the early days of TV having hues. Things look better when they’re on location. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. The mix makes your real appreciate the jangly theme song. The episodes are subtitled.

Audio Commentaries on “Enter Thomas Bowers” and “Hoss and the Leprechauns” feature Andrew J. Klyde, a Bonanza expert. He gives plenty of details of the episode and what went on during the fifth season.

Original Broadcast Material
is included on a few episodes. Thrill to the sight of the NBC Peacock from a time when most people had only black & white TVs. They also have located the bumpers and the Chevy plugs.

The Andy Williams Show
(5:15) has Lorne Greene and Dan Blocker posing as Andy’s writers. They’re forced to come up with jokes for Lorne and Dan.

Cartwright Family Photos
captures all four actors on the set on the same days. This season had a lot of episodes where the focus was on a single Cartwright. A press release included with the pics points out this fact. The actors are hanging out with their horses on the range.

Photo Galleries are provided for each episode. They include the photos the network send out to promote the episode.

Bonanza: The Official Fifth Season, Volume 1 & Volume 2 teases us with the promise of Guy Williams becoming the new fourth Cartwright. He’s got a bit of an outlaw edge to him. Would have been nice if he’s stuck around for the next 9 seasons. Both volumes are packaged together for a better price.

CBS DVD presents Bonanza: The Official Fifth Season, Volume 1 & Volume 2. Starring: Lorne Greene, Dan Blocker, Pernell Roberts and Michael Landon. Boxset Contents: 34 episodes on 9 DVDs. Released: Feburary 5, 2013. Available at Amazon.com.

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