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

And then there were only three Cartwrights on the wide Ponderosa. At the end of the sixth season, Adam (Parnell Roberts) rode away from Bonanza. He’d been part of 200 episodes so he stuck it out for quite a while. There was no immediate need to recast or replace Adam on the show. For quite a few seasons there had been episodes that were solo adventures or left out a Cartwright or two. So it wasn’t that dramatic of a departure. The writers just had to make shows that forgot to include Adam until the audience forgot that Ben Cartwright (Battlestar Galactica‘s Lorne Greene) had an oldest son. Hoss (Dan Blocker) and Little Joe (Little House on the Prairie‘s Michael Landon) split their missing brother’s screen time. Bonanza: The Official Seventh Season – Volume 1 & Volume 2 presents a family that got stronger after a loss.

“The Debt” is a tale of a family obligation. Tommy Sands (Love in a Fish Bowl) and his sister Brooke Bundy (A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master) arrive at the Ponderosa looking to restore their family name. Seems their late father had done the Cartwrights wrong. They want to work off the damages. Things take a turn when it’s discovered that dad’s death was also a swindle. Will the kids rejoin their old man and go back to their true family ways? “The Other Son” has Ed Begley and two kids transporting nitroglycerin across dangerous territory. Oddly enough, neither son is Ed Begley Jr. “The Devil On Her Shoulder” gets Ben all smitten with a new teacher (Charo!‘s Ina Balin) who understands science. Naturally all her book learning gets her branded as a witch by the local holy rollers. This seems like a script that can be written today in Colorado. “The Meredith Smith” has a man’s estate get claimed by numerous people swearing to be his lost relative. Strother Martin (The Wild Bunch) thinks he deserves it all over the other fakes. “The Reluctant Rebel” makes Hoss a big brother to a troubled Tim Considine (My Three Sons). The kid runs away from home and gets mixed up with trouble. He gets nabbed stealing animals from the Ponderosa. Luckily Hoss isn’t ready to string him up. “Five Sundowns to Sunup” puts Little Joe in the clutches of an outlaw gang run by a mother. She uses Little Joe as a hostage to get her son out of jail. But she picked the wrong guy to snatch. “All Ye His Saints” sends Clint Howard (Gentle Ben) up to the mountains in search of God. He meets God, but it turns out to be a normal man. Can he tell the difference? “The Dublin Lad” puts Little Joe in a jury that’s ready to hang Liam Sullivan. He thinks there’s something suspicious about the testimony of a witness. He breaks the rule of being on a jury and investigates for himself.

“To Kill A Buffalo” leaves an Indian to die in the wilderness. Little does he count on Hoss nursing him back to health. Doesn’t help that the Indian hates white people, but Hoss won’t let that stop him from being good to his fellow man. “Ride the Wind” is a two-parter that charts the start of the fabled Pony Express. Ben invests in the business. Little Joe gets on his horse to deliver the mail at full gallop. Things get rough when a tribal chief promises a Denial of Service attack using arrows. DeForest Kelly (Star Trek‘s Bones) is the reporter that’s making this messenger service into an American legend. The production was a larger scale than usual episode since it was transformed into a feature film. “Destiny’s Child” is not about Beyonce’s early work. This is a version of Of Mice and Men without the rabbits. “Peace Officer” lets Virginia City get taken over by nogoodnicks when the Sheriff leaves town. The Mayor (Mary Tyler Moore Show‘s Ted Knight) must bring in Eric Fleming (Rawhide) to restore law and order. Fleming had just left Rawhide after seven seasons. It must have been a shock for TV viewers to finally see him in color. “The Code” guest stars Zalman King who’d go on to make Red Shoes Diaries. “Three Brides For Hoss” includes Majel Barrett (Star Trek) as a woman out for his heart. He supposedly wrote her and two other marriage proposals. “Her Brother’s Keeper” makes Ben want to marry Nancy Gates. Her brother doesn’t want this to happen. Ben wears a cool eyepatch during the episode. “The Trouble with Jamie” is the classic story of the spoiled brat being taught a lesson in the Wild West. “Shining in Spain” puts Joe on the road to getting hitched. Although his future father-in-law might be a major issue. “The Genius” puts a drunk poet to work on the Ponderosa. Hoss wants to clean him up so the guy can focus on his art.

“The Unwritten Commandment” stars Wayne Newton! The Riverboat Gambler is ready to deal his notes to the Cartwrights. He breaks out a sweet version of “Danny Boy.” It almost makes you think the ranch is closer to Las Vegas instead of Reno. “The Fighters” puts Hoss in the ring against Michael Conrad (Hill Street Blues). Hoss does so well that the manager wants to take him pro. The nasty business of boxing gets exposed as Hoss contemplates the title shot dream. They could have called this “Raging Hoss.” “Home From the Sea” brings news from Adam. Alan Bergmann arrives with the story that he saved Adam from a watery grave. But does he really want hospitality or a piece of the Cartwright fortune? “The Last Mission” allows R.G. Armstrong (My Name Is Nobody) a chance to get a final shot at revenge at a nearby Indian tribe. “A Dollar’s Worth of Trouble” puts Hoss straight in fate’s target. A gypsy swears he’ll fall in love with a blond and die. When Sally Kellerman (M*A*S*H*) falls for the lovable lug, he fears the grim reaper is coming. Hampton Fancher (writer of Blade Runner) is a gunman looking for Hoss.

The absence of Adam doesn’t make the show feel the slightest bit unbalanced. There’s a slight sting when he’s not part of the episode featuring his sailing buddies. But there’s no secret wish that he’d ride back in the updated opening credits. Nobody is waiting around for him. Hoss and Little Joe are kept busy being kidnapped, tangled in revenge plots and almost getting married. The departure didn’t knock the fans for a loop since it remained the most popular show on TV. There were still seven more seasons to go before the last round up. Perhaps the only one who missed Adam was Hop Sing (Victor Sen Yung) when he’d resist putting four plates on the dinner table. Bonanza: The Official Seventh Season – Volume 1 & Volume 2 just marks halftime for the Cartwrights.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The color transfers are vibrant. The audio is Dolby Digital Mono. The sound keeps Lorne sounding like the authority figure to his family and all of Nevada. The episodes are subtitled.

Audio Commentary with Rance and Clint Howard on “All Ye His Saints.” The father and son recall working with Michael Landon. Andrew J. Kyle speaks on “Ride the Wind: Part II.”

Ride the Wind – Theatrical Version (96:00) was released outside the USA to give distant lands a taste of life on the Ponderosa. The film deals with the opening of the Pony Express. They also include the trailer (2:33) that swears the episode is too big and too colorful for the TV screen.

Dan Blocker’s PSA for the American Cancer Society (0:50) to help kids with leukemia.

Richard “Cactus” Pryor Interviews Dan Blocker (10:56) discusses the new season and life on the Ponderosa after Adam rode off. Blocker deals with creating the character of Hoss. This is not the comic Richard Pryor.

Impact ’66 (21:11) is a short made by Chevrolet featuring Lorne Greene. This was shown for people in the car industry. Lorne’s on the set with six shooter.

Photo Galleries are provided for the episodes. They feature plenty of promotional pictures.

Bonanza: The Official Seventh Season – Volume 1 & Volume 2 proves there’s life after Adam on the Ponderosa. Hoss and Little Joe do just fine without relying on their big brother to get them out of a bind. There’s always dad to help.

CBS DVD presents Bonanza: The Official Seventh Season – Volume 1 & Volume 2. Starring: Lorne Greene, Dan Blocker and Michael Landon. Boxset Contents: 34 episodes on 9 DVDs. Released: September 2, 2014.