‘Blue Bloods’: Tom Selleck Once Described How the Show was Similar to ‘Bonanza’

by Jennifer Shea

On “Blue Bloods,” actor Tom Selleck plays Frank Reagan, the police commissioner of New York City. Reagan has a tough job that includes worrying about the 35,000 police officers working for him.

And despite its setting, the show definitely has its Western influences. At least, that’s according to Selleck, who is a longtime fan of the genre.

But Selleck also plays another hero cut from cowboy cloth: Jesse Stone. Stone is the protagonist in a string of made-for-TV movies about a New England police chief whose alcoholism led him to relocate from Los Angeles. They’re adapted from Robert B. Parker’s series of novels.

How ‘Blue Bloods’ Draws Inspiration from ‘Bonanza’

In a 2016 interview with Cowboys & Indians, Selleck described how Jesse is like a cowboy. He also explained how “Blue Bloods” draws on “Bonanza,” with its strong family overtones.

“This is particularly true with Jesse,” Selleck said, in response to the suggestion that Jesse is a cowboy hero. “He has a strong sense of irony with lots of bad habits, but the audience seems to love him. The head of the Paradise Town Council doesn’t like him at all and was trying to get rid of him until movie No. 8, saying, ‘We think you behave like a small-town sheriff.’ Jesse replied, ‘Like a benevolent Gene Hackman in Unforgiven?’ You could put this character in a western setting and all you’d have to change is cars to horses — something that I really miss.”

“I also compare ‘Blue Bloods’ to ‘Bonanza,’” Selleck added. ”These are shows with strong family character and strong family values.”

‘Bonanza’ Was the Second Most Successful Western on Television

Not only was “Bonanza” the first Western to air in color, but it also became the longest-running and most successful Western in TV history after “Gunsmoke.” Starring Michael Landon, the show followed the Cartwright family – made up of a widower and his three sons – who were ranchers in Nevada during the 1800s.

While “Bonanza” was most definitely a Western, it didn’t feature a lot of violence. The characters addressed most problems by talking it out rather than shooting it up. And the show’s strong emphasis on the family is also apparent in “Blue Bloods.”

Moreover, in its use of the ranch as a central element of the show, “Bonanza” was also arguably an inspiration for the popular Paramount Network series “Yellowstone.” According to the Television Academy Foundation, “Bonanza” producers referred to the Ponderosa Ranch as the fifth character on the show.

So between “Yellowstone” and “Blue Bloods,” “Bonanza” can fairly claim to have inspired some of the most-watched modern television on the air nowadays.