‘Bonanza’: Lorne Greene Explained Why Show ‘Couldn’t Help’ But Be Successful

by Joe Rutland
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When looking back at all the support “Bonanza” received, Lorne Greene felt like there wasn’t any way that the NBC western wouldn’t succeed.

“‘Bonanza’ is, what I would call, a fun show to do,” Greene, who portrayed Ben Cartwright, said in an Australian TV interview from the early 1980s. “The people were great, the guest stars we had were marvelous.

“Our crew was tremendous and we looked forward to getting up at 5:30 or 5 o’clock in the morning,” Greene said, “to go up and out on location because we knew it was going to be a fun day.

‘Bonanza’ Star Says Show ‘Had So Many People Helping Us’

“And we had a tremendous amount of help from so many people who came along the way that the show couldn’t help but become successful,” Greene said. “We had so many people helping us.”

Indeed, the words success and “Bonanza” are synonymous with one another. Consider that the hit NBC western lasted 14 seasons on the air. It’s the second-longest-running western show in TV history, second only to CBS’s powerhouse “Gunsmoke” and its 20 seasons.

Another mark of the show’s success is that it finished in the top 10 of the Nielsen ratings between its third and 12th season. In fact, it finished as the No 1-ranked TV show for three straight seasons.

Top TV Western Started Dropping In Ratings After Blocker’s Death

Besides Greene, Michael Landon, Dan Blocker, and Pernell Roberts were the main cast members early on in “Bonanza.” Landon played “Little Joe,” Blocker played “Hoss,” and Roberts played Adam. All were Cartwrights and all were the sons of Ben.

The show held its reign over other TV shows but truly suffered a blow when Blocker died from complications after gallbladder surgery in May 1972. “Bonanza” tried to fill his spot with other actors like Tim Matheson and Mitch Vogel. But viewers just didn’t feel a connection with the show anymore and deeply missed seeing “Hoss” on there.

“Bonanza” producers made the decision to kill off his character in the show, something hardly done at the time. The show finished 20th in its 13th season. NBC, upon seeing ratings plummet even more in the 14th season, canceled the show halfway through that final season. The last original episode aired on Jan. 16, 1973, less than a year after Blocker’s untimely death.

Greene, Landon, and Roberts are all dead, too.

Fans of the show, though, hold the Ponderosa and “Bonanza” near to their hearts.

Outsider.com