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

Audience get used to a certain cast balance on a long running TV show. If an actor leaves a soap opera, they’ll send the character on vacation and have them return as a whole new actor. When the eldest son split My Three Sons, the family quickly adopted another kid. When Laverne & Shirley stopped having Shirley, the show was gone in a year. You need to restore balance. Bonanza started as the tale of a man with three sons from his three different wives. But after a few seasons Pernell Roberts was itching to split the show because of the grind. So after season six, his character Adam Cartwright rode off into the Nevada sunset. For two seasons things felt awkward on the screen with only Ben (Battlestar Galactica‘s Lorne Greene) and his sons Little Joe (Little House on the Prairie‘s Michael Landon) and Hoss (Lady in Cement‘s Dan Blocker) riding up on horseback in the opening credits. The actors also felt a bit of weight since it meant their characters had to take up the storylines that would have gone to Adam. The producers tried a few different fourth, but nothing stuck until “Candy” Canaday (David Canary) got hired to be the new ranch foreman and part of the family. Bonanza: The Official Ninth Season Volume 1 & 2 shows the new level of balance on the Ponderosa over 34 episodes.

The season starts off with action on “Second Chance” when the Indians go on a rampage. They start attacking ranches. Little Joe and Hoss get in serious trouble and Ben has to join up with the Calvary. James Gregory (The Manchurian Candidate & Barney Miller) is a part of the arrows and bullets. “Sense of Duty” has an Indian prisoner being transported to a military fort. “The Conquistadores” has a family panning for gold decide to get rich by kidnapping Little Joe. John Saxon (Enter the Dragon) is part of the scheme. “False Witness” gives Candy a bigger role as he hits the trail with Joe and Hoss. “The Gentle Ones” features Lana Wood, best known as Plenty O’Toole in Diamonds Are Forever. “Desperate Passage” questions what happened to a destroyed town where only Steve Forrest (S.W.A.T. and Tina Louise (Ginger on Gilligan’s Island) know the truth. “The Sure Thing” guests Kim Darby from Better Off Dead before she’d hire John Wayne in True Grit. Burgess Meredith (Penguin on Batman) drops by to see his buddy Ben in “Six Black Horses.””Justice Deferred” is a hanging case that might have been done wrong. Simon Oakland (Kolchak: The Night Stalker gets to be mistaken. “The Gold Detector” has Wally Cox (Mr. Peepers) with a new detection device. “The Trackers” has Bruce Dern (Big Love) suspected of robbing a bank because he’s Bruce Dern. “A Girl Named George” also gives us the man, Jack Albertson, from Chico and the Man.

For those who prefer Mary Ann to Ginger, you’re in luck as “The Burning Sky” gives us Dawn Wells (Gilligan’s Island) as an Indian. “The Price of Salt” cost a guest star from James Best (Dukes of Hazzard). “The Crime of Johnny Mule” could be murder if Hoss votes to convict Noah Beery Jr. (Rockford Files). “Trouble Town” has Joe Turkel, the bartender from The Shining. “The Arrival of Eddie” should be a reason to celebrate except Hoss accidentally shot Eddie’s dad. Jan-Michael Vincent (Airwolf) is Eddie. “A Severe Case of Matrimony” has Susan Strasberg (Psych-Out and The Trip) ready to marry a Cartwright.

Candy gets worked into the Cartwrights without being too forceful of character. He knows he works for the family and isn’t kin so the addition isn’t awkward like a forgotten son wandering onto the ranch. Things feel natural with four men roaming the Ponderosa and taming the wild west. The show didn’t truly suffer ratings wise as it remained in the Top 5. There would be five more seasons of Bonanza before the Cartwrights would all ride out into the sunset.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfers are once more so top notch. Having experience the last few decades of washed out episodes on various cable channels, the resolution upgrade is overwhelming. Things look so nice on the screen that you are watching them better than when they aired 50 years ago on your antenna. The audio is Dolby Digital Mono. They include the Spanish dub track. The subtitles are English.

Original NBC Log, Bumpers and Chevy Promo are an option for many episodes

Photos are provided for most of the episodes. Special gallerys include Meet David Canary, Cast Group Photos,

Excerpt From “Danny Thomas Goes Country & Western” (2:34) has Lorne Greene and Michael Landon hanging with the man behind St. Jude Hospital. Lorne’s upset that he couldn’t be allowed to Square Dance on the show.

Vintage NBC Promo (1:03) promises a lot of horses and guns on the ranch. This was its “ninth great year.”

David Dortort Production Notes gives a sense of what it took to keep the show at the top of the ratings for so long.

CBS DVD presents Bonanza: The Official Ninth Season: Volume 1. Starring: Lorne Greene, Dan Blocker, Michael Landon, Victor Sen Yung and David Canary. Boxset Contents: 16 episodes on 4 DVDs. Released: May 7, 2019.

CBS DVD presents Bonanza: The Official Ninth Season: Volume 2. Starring: Lorne Greene, Dan Blocker, Michael Landon, Victor Sen Yung and David Canary. Boxset Contents: 18 episodes on 4 DVDs. Released: May 7, 2019.

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