DVD Review: Bonanza: The Official Complete Series

DVD Reviews, Reviews, Top Story

Television changed when the map of the Ponderosa caught fire. Bonanza became the first TV series broadcast in color when it debuted on September 12, 1959. RCA which owned NBC and need a reason to get viewers excited about adding hues to their home TV. Channels in certain markets had aired specials in color, but doing an entire series in color was considered extravagant. There were only 350,000 color TV sets in America at that time. But most of them were RCA TV sets so it was worth the cash to not make the show black and white like Gunsmoke and the dozens of other westerns. America got to see the colorful life of the Cartwright family. Now you can see all 14 seasons and 432 episodes in Bonanza: The Official Complete Series.

The show revolved around Ben Cartwright (Battlestar Galactica‘s Lorne Greene) and his massive ranch in the Reno, Nevada area. For all his good fortune, Ben had really bad luck with wives. He lost three wives of different backgrounds that dropped dead after giving birth to a son each. Adam (Trapper John M.D.‘s Pernell Roberts), Hoss (Lady In the Cement‘s Dan Blocker) and Little Joe (Little House on the Prairie‘s Michael Landon) are three different kinds of guys although they do share their father’s feeling of doing the right thing for their neighbors. Taking care of all four of them is Hop Sing (Charlie Chan in Reno‘s Victor Sen Yung) who was from China.

During the fifth season, Guy Williams (Zorro) showed up as Will Cartwright, Ben’s nephew. The producers were worried about Parnell Roberts leaving the show at the end of season. Will would take over as the 4th Cartwright when Adam rode off. But Parnell came back for season six and the producers let Guy Williams hit the trail. Parnell quit after season six, but Will didn’t return because Guy Williams was playing the dad on Lost In Space. For two seasons, Ben operated with just Hoss and Joe. At the start of the 9th season, Candy (David Canary) became the ranch foreman and part of the family so they could once more have four characters to follow for the episodes. But the foreman vanished a few seasons later when the actor had a contract issue. Candy wasn’t true family. The Cartwrights went back to the key three characters.

The show came to an abrupt end during the 1972-73 season. After a decade on top, the series slipped in the ratings due to two events. First was the death of Dan Blocker when season 13 ended. He passed away from complications after gall bladder surgery. Season 14 felt strange without Hoss riding around the Ponderosa. The show became about a dad and his single son Joe which wasn’t quite the original premise. Timothy Matheson arrived as a troubled kid wanting to straighten his life by working on the ranch. The producers brought back Candy, but it didn’t bring back viewers. Making things worse was CBS running Maude and Hawaii Five-O against the show. CBS didn’t even wait for the end of the season. They foreclosed on the Ponderosa after only 16 episodes. The season 14 episodes might be new to a lot of fans since many of the stations avoided the Hoss-less episodes when they reran the show. Dan Blocker’s absence was extremely noticeable. “The Hunter” with Tom Skerrit (Alien) wasn’t a real farewell episode, but was co-written and directed by Michael Landon showing he was more than just Little Joe after all the years. Lorne would go on to Battlestar Galactica and Micheal Landon would strike series success with Little House on the Prairie and Highway To Heaven. Bonanza would never vanish from the TV screen as it remained popular in syndication on local TV and cable stations. Since all the episodes were shot in color, Bonanza didn’t vanish from the screen in the ’80s like so many black and white Westerns. This remained one of the show dads would sit back on the sofa to watch on the weekends. Since there were so many episodes, they’d often swear they hadn’t seen the rerun. If you need a Father’s Day gift, Bonanza: The Complete Official Series is perfect. This is a show about a father and his sons. You dad will appreciate the picture quality upgrade that aren’t the fuzzy video masters from years ago. The numerous bonus features will allow him to delve even deeper in the Ponderosa life. You can also give a copy to yourself to remember those times you watched along with Dad.

For fans who have been faithfully collecting the DVDs since 2009, CBS is releasing seasons 12, 13 and 14 of Bonanza separately. They’re also putting out a new set of Season 2 with the remastered episodes.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. They remastered the show from the 35mm film elements so you feel like you’re hanging out in the Ponderosa. The Audio is Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono. The episodes sound great even when the Cartwrights sing their theme song. There’s also a Spanish dub track in Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono for seasons 9 – 14. The episodes are subtitled.


Mike Landon’s Visits Sweden (2:38) is a special interview he did in 1962 while on tour to promote the show. He mentioned Dan Blocker getting hurt during a horse stunt that led to the show having to be shutdown for a few weeks.

Telescope: Greene’s Bonanza (26:06) is an interview show from 1963. He’s poolside for this Canadian show. He was born in Ottawa. We get to see Lorne driving the freeway in his convertible. He takes us behind the scenes at the studio.

Soap Box Derby Featurettes has Lorne narrating “The Long, Happy Race” (5:23) when he won the Cartwright heat in 1962 and “Slide…? Or Starting Line” (7:06) with Dan Block narrating the race from 1964.

The Cartwrights Visit Sesame Street (3:42) has Ben, Hoss and Little Joe doing their alphabet, numbers, math and distances for viewers.

Lorne Greene Comedy Routine: An Evening At the Improv (4:58) was from the series in 1981. They welcome him to the show with a burning map. Greene wants to defend himself from being a punchline after his Alpo ads and the four guys living without women on the Ponderosa. He jokes about his sons on the show. It’s still funny.

Michael Landon Q & A with Vicki Carr and The Tonight Show Audience (5:20) has only the audio from his visit in 1973. He talks about Dan Blocker soon after his passing.

Public Service Announcements (2:42) has Dan Blocker and Lorne Greene promote US Savings Bonds. Lorne explains why you shouldn’t import rare animals turned into coats and shoes.

Rare Bonanza Episode Trailers with Cast Intros (4:50) has three done with Lorne, Michael and Dan each. All are in black and white.

Rare On-Air Advertising includes 1959 NBC Fall Preview (1:02) announces the first series in color, 1961 NBC Bonanza Promo (0:19) has Lorne for WRC-TV, 1967 NBC Fall Preview (0:55) is animated by Bill Feigenbaum and 1972 Chevrolet Billboard Announcement (0:16) is a promo.

Mariette Hartley’s Memories (7:01) was taped for a Bonanza Convention in 2011. She talks about how serious Lorne was. She adored Dan Blocker.

Take 30: Lorne Greene Interview (19:15) was show in 1966 for a Canadian Show. He points out that because of international syndication, Bonanza is seen by 400 million people each week.

Michael Landon: The Last Interview (5:54) was recorded in March 1991. He passed away in July. He discusses how they were losing in the ratings to Perry Mason in the first season. He gets into issues with the guns and rifles on the show. This is audio with photos.

Lorne Greene Appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (2:56) is from 1972. Lorne talks about the recent passing of Dan Blocker.

Michael Landon: The Final Shoot – Farewell On The Final Day of Filming (0:42) has him take a shotgun blast.

Bonanza Company: The Last Party (33:25) was recorded by the sound guy. There’s still photos of the cast and crew at the event.

Bonanza Blooper Reel (8:59) has the Cartwrights blow their lines, horse mounting, chores and more.

Bonanza Bonus Photo Gallery (8:57) has photos from the entire run of the show.

Pernell Roberts Appearance: The Ed Sullivan Show (5:24) has him singing on stage in 1965. Pernell is bigger than Ed.

NBC: The First 50 Years — Salute to Bonanza (1:05) has Orson Welles narrate this segment from 1976.

Season Sets Include:

Introductions and audio commentaries from Timothy Matheson on season 14 episodes. The star of National Lampoon’s Animal House joined the cast at the end.

Audio Commentaries include Ben Cooper on “Showdown,” Stella Stevens for “Silent Thunder,” David Macklin remembers “The Blood Line” and Julie Adams talks over “The Courtship.” Stella really doesn’t say too much which seems appropriate since her character can’t talk.

David Dortort Stories: Bonanza Convention Greetings (3:10) was the executive producer’s welcome to the attendees in 1999. He couldn’t make the trip because of heart issues. He and his wife had just celebrated their 59th wedding anniversary. He gives a little life advice. Dortort passed away on Sept. 5, 2010. A Student of History (6:28) is a tour of his house in 1999. He talks about his statues. Remembering Pernell Roberts (2:02) gets him called a consummate actor and charming. Color TV and Second Season Successes (3:19) he addresses how they battled it out with Perry Mason. He pitched the series as being in color so RCA could sell color TVs.

Richard “Cactus” Pryor Interview Dan Blocker (1:41) has the host apologize for calling Dan’s wife “Mrs. Cartwright.”

Play Episode with Original NBC Network Logo, Bumpers and RCA Promo are an option on “The Mission” and “The Trail Gang.” All the episodes have the colorful peacock opening.

Photo Gallery includes pictures from the episodes, cast appearances on Colortown, USA Celebration, Parades, Rodeos, Cast Members at Home, Ponderosa Set and Publicity Poses.

On Air Promos (2:18) includes Lorne inviting you to meet his family.

Archival Footage and Still Photos (1961): Tournament of Rose Parade, Pasadena, CA (1:11) has a glimpse of the Cartwrights going down the street with numerous still shots of their ride. Hoss’ cowboy hat is bigger than most of the floats.

Photo Gallery: Cast Members at “Home” are numerous publicity stills of the cast off the set. Be warned of the shot of Dan Blocker diving into his pool. Lorne Greene looks seductive with a polo mallet. Michael Landon attempts to shave.

Photo Galleries: Paramount Studios Publicity Poses include Virginia City Exteriors, Ponderosa Ranch Interiors, Light Moments, Double Duty, Candids – Lorne Greene and Candids-Pernell Roberts. Are you ready to see Lorne Greene riding a bike in full costume?

Photo Gallery: 1961 Cast Portraits by Elmer W. Holloway and Michael Landon: “Marine For a Day.” The cast portraits makes the Cartwrights look less than macho. Landon had gone down to work out with the Marines one day.

Audio Commentaries include Naura Hayden on “The Infernal Machine.” She played Big Red and has plenty of behind the scenes facts. Anthony Lawrence contributes to “Elizabeth, My Love” and “The Rival.” He wrote the scripts to both episodes. He gives a detailed explanation for his inspiration and how he makes scenes work. He discusses creative politics in getting his ideas onto the TV screen. Andrew J. Klyde adds background to “Sam Hill.” He’s the lawyer for Bonanza Ventures, but he’s passionate about the history of the show.

On-Air Promos (1:15) makes Michael Landon invite us to watch his family.

David Dortort Stories: “Tributes to the Fans” (3:18) lets the creator of the show read a few old letters from viewers. So many people considered the Cartwrights part of their families.

Original NBC Logo, Bumpers and RCA Promos are featured on a few episodes. Thrill to the first colorful peacock. Other episodes have their original trailers.

Third Season Episodes with Original NBC Network Logo, Bumpers and Chevrolet Promo.

Audio commentaries include Sue Ane Langdon on “The Many Faces of Gideon Flinch,” Lisa Lu on “Day of the Dragon,” Diane Mountford on “Gabrielle,” Audrey Dalton on “The Lady from Baltimore” and Andrew J. Klyde on “The Crucible,” ”

Tales of Nevada – Past and Present: “Bonanza Days” Radio Show starring Chuck Greene and Andrew Klyde (26:22) is a chat with Lorne’s son on a Reno radio station in 2011. He shares things dad did on the show.

The March of Dimes Presents “The Scene Stealers” (2:56) has the legnedary Buster Keaton and Ed Wynne crash the set of Bonanza to mess with Dan and Lorne.

Henry Fonda and Family (8:43) is a TV special based on the 1960 census data. Dan Blocker guests on a bit about being compatible with your spouse.

Photo Galleries include Lake Tahoe Publicity, Dan & Pernell and Their Antique Car, Scene Stealers, Emerald Empire Round-Up, Cartwrights at Home, Paramount Publicity Photos, Betty Endicott: Standout Stand-In, Virginia City Days and episode promotional pics.

Audio Commentaries feature guest stars remembering their times on the Ponderosa. Larrian Gillespie and Andrew J. Kylde discuss “Gallagher’s Sons.” Gregory Walcott sings of “Song In the Dark.” Patrica Crowley waxes on “The Actress.”

Photo Galleries include “Chevrolet’s Ponderosa Party,” “Lake Tahoe Location ,” “Cartwrights Behind the Scenes,” “Pernell and His Motorcycle,” “Stars and Their Stunt Doubles,” “Ponderosa Party Time Recording Sessions”

Play Episode with Original NBC Network Logo, Bumpers and Chevrolet Promos. Takes you back when it was a thrill to get a show in color even if your family owned a black and white TV back in 1962.

Excerpt from “Perry Como’s Kraft Musical Hall (7:46) has Dan Blocker and Lorne Greene bring a little of the west to Perry’s Brooklyn studio. The sketch shows how the series is altered for foreign markets.

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.

Audio commentaries are on a few episodes. “Between Heaven and Earth” gets discussed by author Andrew J. Klyde. Screenwriters Richard and Esther Shapiro talk of their work on “A Dime’s Worth of Glory.” Klyde and actress Linda Lawson break down “To Own the World.” There’s memories of Telly.

Photo Galleries include Cartwrights at the All-American Soap Box Derby, On Location at Kernville, CA, Cartwright Family Portraits, Lost Portrait Session and promo pics from the episodes.

“Highway of Melody”
 (3:42) lets Michael Landon sing “Lonesome Road” in a 1962 special brought to you by CITGO gas.

RCA Color Television Advertisement features Bonanza on the screen. The TV set was just under $400 in 1965. If you adjust the price for inflation, you’d be spending nearly $3,000 for that set in today’s money.

Allan Sherman’s Funnyland (8:42) has Lorne and Allan Sherman mixing it up. Lorne performs “Ringo.” This song along with Sherman’s “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh” were the foundation of rap music.

Audio Promos (1:49) let the cast announce the show is coming to Australia on Channel O.

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.

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.

Photo Gallery of the dedication of the Ponderosa Soundstage.

Episode Trailer for “The Fence” (1:02) promos the action. You get to see what red shifting looks like.

Audio Commentary on “Mark of Guilt” from author Andrew J. Klyde gets into the episode.

Jack Benny Birthday Special (9:02) has Dan Blocker pop up to wish the comic icon a happy 39th once more.

Intro and Outro on “Real People of Muddy Creek” with actor Mitch Vogel also includes the original bumpers. He accounts what it was like to be a kid on an already legendary show.

Promo Trailers are included for “The Stalker,” “Dead Wrong,” “Caution: Easter Bunny Crossing” and “What Are Parders For.” They are not color corrected so they look rather rough including red shifting.

Audio Commentary on “Dead Wrong” and “Caution: Easter Bunny Crossing” with Andrew J. Klyde gives background on the episode and what was going on for the series during season 11.

Sponsor Material (1:03) is Lorne selling the Chevy Impala.

The David Canary Candids are photos from the Barbara Lay Kieffer collection.

Photo Gallery of Dapper Dan Blocker has Hoss looking like he’s ready for an Octoberfest

And More bonus features throughout the seasons.

CBS DVD presents Bonanza: The Official Complete Series. Starring Lorne Greene, Pernell Roberts, Dan Blocker, Michael Landon, Guy Williams, Victor Sen Yung, David Canary, Mitch Vogel, Ray Teal, Bing Russell & Tim Matheson. Boxset Contents: 432 on 112 DVDS. Release Date: May 23, 2023.

Joe Corey is the writer and director of "Danger! Health Films" currently streaming on Night Flight and Amazon Prime. He's the author of "The Seven Secrets of Great Walmart People Greeters." This is the last how to get a job book you'll ever need. He was Associate Producer of the documentary "Moving Midway." He's worked as local crew on several reality shows including Candid Camera, American's Most Wanted, Extreme Makeover Home Edition and ESPN's Gaters. He's been featured on The Today Show and CBS's 48 Hours. Dom DeLuise once said, "Joe, you look like an axe murderer." He was in charge of research and programming at the Moving Image Archive.