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“Look at it Adam. Feast thine eyes on a scene that approacheth heaven itself.”
The theme music is some of the best-known in the world. The cast is as American as apple pie. Or cheese-covered deep-fried Oreos. The guys I hang out with (Doc and Woody and Randall) can rhyme off the cat the way I can rhyme off the roster of the Boston Red Sox. The Ponderosa. Hoss and Little Joe and Ben and Adam. Everything about Bonanza is familiar and comforting. Even to me. And until today, I had never seen an episode of the show. And yet, seeing it for the first time, I was comforted and assuaged and relaxed simply by the easy regularity of the show, the second-longest-running Western show (behind Gunsmoke) in television history.
Bonanza lasted 14 seasons, which means that according to my math, and the rate at which Paramount Home Entertainment releases TV series on DVD, we can look forward to about 20 years of reissues and DVD box sets. Which works for me. It gives me 20 years to look forward to stuff. You know, Bonanza stuff. The opening scene in the opening episode is incredibly cheesy and old. Ben Cartwright (Lorne Greene) waxes eloquent as he surveys the land around him (the Ponderosa) and compares it to heaven. I was laughing right away, and looking forward to a cheesy, dated television series that could make me smile.
I was (sort of) disappointed when I started to watch, however. It turns out that Bonanza is no more dated than any of the Western movies that were filmed in the same era. The cast is superb (especially Michael Landon as Little Joe), and the writing is quite good. Each episode is reasonably gritty and tough and badass, and the first season boils down to a final episode which is very reminiscent of some of the coolest westerns of the day, including Rio Bravo and El Dorado. The sherriff in Virginia City is overmatched by a gang who have taken over the town, and the Cartwright boys are deputized to help him out, perhaps at the cost of their own father’s life.
Of course, knowing that the series lasted another 13 years, I assumed that Lorne Greene would not be killed. And of course he wasn’t. And I really do have a lot to look forward to watching over the next 20 years. As Paramount releases each season, one volume at a time. At least they’ve released the first two volumes together this time, so you can get the entire first season at once. I appreciate that, although I would still wish to see one season in one volume. I can’t imagine who would purchase Season One Volume Two and not Season One Volume One, but that opportunity is out there for that one guy. It’s out there from Paramount Home Entertainment, on September 15th.