Cowboys, gold, the wild frontier – sounds like a winner for a TV show, and the proof was in the pudding (or the goldmines of the wild, wild west. The iconic TV show “Bonanza” came out to eventually steal the hearts of TV viewers far and wide, and it didn’t even matter if you were a kid or a senior citizen. Something about watching the Cartwrights running the Ponderosa Ranch and getting into adventures seemed to grab people in a way that would make you scratch your head given the sitcom typically was about a more “traditional” family with a focus on, well, family!
Nevertheless, the show lasted quite a while – through an alarming 14 seasons -- until eventually, progress took hold and more of those “urban” shows we know of, like “All in the Family,” started making marks. Still to this day, though, we have plenty of “Bonanza” freaks out there. Shows back in that day carried with them loyal fan bases – hence such classics like “Star Trek” and “Green Acres.” But “Bonanza”? Are you the top fan in the world for this show? Prove it! Take this test to see just how well you know the show even beyond that of the characters and episodes!
Lorne Greene was well known for his deep and imposing voice, which gave him what iconic nickname?
The Voice of Hell
The Voice of Pain
The Voice of Doom
Before he starred in “Bonanza,” the Canadian actor was an announcer for the Canadian Broadcasting Company during World War II. He was the one delivering all the news on the war in such a fierce way that he gave him that wicked infamous nickname.
"Bonanza" ran for such a long time that it still ranks up there with all-time iconic American shows, hence why many A-listers and celebrities often tuned in – or even starred in episodes. Even The King tuned in religiously!
Based on the setting, the Cartwrights would’ve had a famous neighbor in history. Who would that neighbor be?
It just so happened that Samuel Clemens, a.k.a. Mark Twain, lived in Virginia City, Nevada, in the 1860s. Exactly where the show “Bonanza” was set! Heck, the famous Huckleberry Finn novelist even came to the city just to mine silver.
Eugene Maurice Orowitz was born in 1936, and you can imagine his name probably didn’t fit a marquee very well. So he opted to change it for showbiz purposes – finding his name in a phone book, no less.
Any of the Cartwrights falling in love ended up with the woman dying.
It just happened to be the way storylines worked, but no matter how the script played it, any of the Cartwrights had to deal with love interests either dying, or becoming ill, or just leaving them for another man. It was so funny that the concept became a big joke among the cast members.
Each of the Cartwrights would fall off the horses at least once per episode.
It was something Michael Landon made up just for fun, and didn’t mean anything.
The Cartwrights for some reason always wore the same clothes every day.
What was the name of the Cartwrights’ magnetic and appealing family cook?
Yes, the Cartwrights’ family cook was indeed a Chinese man with bubbly character. He was often one of the reasons why many wanted to tune in and watch the episodes. The character appeared in more than one-hundred of them.
Dan Blocker died all too soon, forcing the showrunners to sadly deal with the disappearance of his character. How did Blocker die?
A hemorrhage in the cortex of his brain during surgery
He was shot in Texas by an assailant wielding a .44 Magnum.
A pulmonary embolism due to a failed gallbladder surgery
At the tragic age of 43, Blocker left us with a legacy due to a failed gallbladder surgery, which left the writers with a dilemma that was, in fact, the first time in television history that a show had to deal with the sudden death of a male character.
You’d be surprised to know that while his character Eric “Hoss” Cartwright was just a bubbly gullible and dopey guy, the fact is Dan Blocker was quite the intellectual. He had a Masters degree, for one, and initially was an English and drama teacher at a high school in Sonora, Texas.
David Canary was a truly a reputable soap opera star who left the show in 1970. Why?
Because he wanted to focus more on his family.
He had a degenerative brain disease.
There was a dispute with his salary.
David Canary played the role of Candy Canaday after Pernell Roberts left the show but then had some major disagreements with respect to his salary. He had asked for a raise but was refused. Two years later, though, both Landon and a producer wanted him back with a contract renewal and a decent raise to boot.
The toupee he had to wear just didn’t look real enough.
Robert Altman, director of the film M.A.S.H. wanted Blocker on of the cast. Blocker wouldn’t have minded had it not been for the fact that the producers refused. M.A.S.H. was a mega-hit, which truly could’ve pushed Blocker’s career even further had he been cast for one of the roles.
Which famous character almost had a part on the show?
The Lone Ranger
To clarify, there were no ‘cross-overs’ on TV in these cases, although it would’ve been cool if the Spaniard found his way to the Ponderosa for a rather fun episode. However, it was the actor Guy Williams who chose to play the iconic character for that other TV show back in the day.
Which famous guitarist popularized the Bonanza theme song?
As Bonanza was developed, it was brought to the producers’ attention that a certain country singer wanted in on the action: That singer was Johnny Cash, who recorded the theme song in its full version for the show. The single was then released by Capitol Records in Cash’s sixteenth album, Ring of Fire.
Actor Ray Teal played a secondary role as Sheriff Roy Coffee for how many episodes?
It’s remarkable that a minor role lasted that long, and yet Hop Sing was featured close to that number. Ray Teal, in fact, had the most appearances in 98 episodes from 1960 to 1972. He went on to star in almost 100 other TV shows and over 250 films, too!
The producers did something crazy to improve ratings during the first season. What did they do?
They used a variety of costumes and special effects.
Elvis Presley appeared for just a few episodes.
They paid several guest celebrity actors to star in many of the episodes.
One of the gutsiest moves the producers wanted to manage was the fact that the main cast was completely unknown. They weren’t, however, confident that the show would catch on without some name recognition, so they actually hired several well-known celebrity actors to co-star.
Johnny Cash was featured as a regular next-door neighbor in the show.
The showrunners consistently tried to cut costs on the show for good reason. How?
They used cardboard sets often.
They used fake cactus plants and other props.
The cast wore the same outfits every episode.
"Bonanza" still to this day ranks as one of the most expensive television shows of all time. So you can’t blame the producers for trying to minimize expense. The best way they did it was to have the four Cartwrights wear the exact same outfits in each episode. This made it that much easier to reuse all sorts of stock footage for action sequences and scenes requiring stunt doubles.
During the first season, the show was in danger of being canceled. What saved it?
More color TVs sold
Time slot change
While it was true that "Bonanza" happened to be one of the first shows broadcast in color and more of those TVs were sold as a result, what actually improved the show’s ratings for the second season was a simple time slot change. It moved from Saturday to Sunday, and that’s all it took.
Even with the producers’ cost-cutting methods, to this day "Bonanza" ranks as one of the most expensive TV shows ever made at $100K to $150K per episode. It, however, performed remarkably well after the first season, so that justified it tremendously.
You probably already guessed that the name “Hoss” was a nickname. The other characters always referred to him as that, but he did have an actual character name, and that was Eric. Eric Haas Cartwright, to be exact. You’d have to be a die-hard fanatic to know this one.
What did Bonanza help do besides get people to watch TV?
It helped people ride more horses.
More and more people wanted to mine gold in Arizona.
More color TVs were sold to American families.
NBC’s parent company RCA had a monopoly on their hands – they had the newest innovation in technology called “Technicolor,” and it just so happened that "Bonanza" staying on the air contributed to the increased sales in color televisions. That made RCA quite happy.
American fathers became more and more involved with their families.
Which famous science fiction television show cast was featured at the Ponderosa?
The Robinsons from “Lost in Space.”
The crew from “Battlestar Galactica.”
The crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise from “Star Trek.”
You’d be a little surprised to know that Lorne Greene, who was also in “Battlestar Galactica,” did not have the pleasure of acting alongside that cast on some of the episodes for "Bonanza." Instead if you watch those episodes, you’ll see each cast member from Star Trek on there – even Lieutenant Uhura.
Believe it or not, but “Bonanza” had a different show title for a year. What was that title?
Weird that a show technically had ‘two’ show titles. Wouldn’t that have caused confusion? Not even. The reason for the two names was that the new episodes for the summer of 1972 were still premiered on Sundays, but reruns began airing on Tuesday nights.
What story model did the producers try to follow for the show?
Surprisingly, the producers didn’t want to go head to head with the likes of “Gunsmoke,” which was another Western show on TV at the time. Instead they thought of the age-old legend himself: King Arthur. After thinking about how Arthur ruled Camelot with his knights at the round table, it was pretty clear that the Cartwrights fit the model perfectly.
What year did the Bonanza cast release a special Christmas music album?
It’s amazing to think that actors of a popular Western TV show came together to release an actual album – a Christmas album, no less. The name of the album was “Christmas at Ponderosa,” featuring many of the classics you love, like “Deck the Halls” and “Jingle Bells.”
Did Bonanza feature a full-length theatrical film, and where?
Yes, and it debuted worldwide to resounding success.
No, because no studio had enough resources to manage production.
Yes, only in Mexico.
It wasn’t a surprise that there would be a theatrical release at some point given Bonanza’s success. However, it only debuted in Mexico, featuring the episodes “Ride the Wind: Part 1” and “Ride the Wind: Part II.” The combination was then renamed to “Jinetes del Viento” as a full-length feature with no commercials.
Which actor in the main cast had serious issues with the show?
Lorne Greene and Dan Blocker loved the work they did. So did Michael Landon except some time later on when he started causing some issues. It was Pernell Roberts that hated the show so much that all the pressure he put on the network caused the termination.
What other forms of transportation did the Cartwrights endorse besides horses?
Strangely enough, the cast could be seen during several commercials back in the day for Chevrolet. They’d be standing right by some of those iconic vehicles due to a long-standing partnership with the automotive company given a main portion of the show’s budget was due to Chevrolet in general.
The show was about discovering crude oil and other treasures.
The word actually means “jackpot” because of gold and mineral miners.
The word “bonanza” is actually a slang term used by miners back in the day discovering gold, silver or other precious metals. Interestingly enough, it just so happened that the ranch where the show was filmed happened to be right by a real-life “bonanza” called the famous “Comstock Lode.”
How many TV specials aired following the eventual cancellation?
It was hard to think that the show would ever get canceled, but alas some great things do have to come to an end. That didn’t mean the network didn’t want to continue heralding and praising the show that began an American phenomenon. Three specials following the series aired: “Bonanza: The Next Generation,” 1988, “Bonanza: The Return,” 1993, and “Bonanza: Under Attack,” 1995.
None. Nothing else would do the TV series justice.
Besides “Battlestar Galactica,” which other well-known show did Lorne Greene star in?
Lorne Greene was obviously very much into science fiction, having dabbled into his role in BG. It was the show “Code Red,” however, that took him into modern times and not the distant future of robots and starships.