The western “Bonanza” was incredibly popular for its time, lasting 14 seasons on the air. Actor Lorne Greene credits its success to this dynamic. At the heart of the show, the programming was about family and a relationship between a father and his sons.
According to Greene, such dynamics date all the way back to biblical times. He believed viewers latched onto these relationships.
“A big reason for this show’s popularity,” Greene said, according to the LA Times, “is the strength and warmth of the family. The father-son relationship is the strongest there is. It’s been the basis of drama all the way back to the Bible. Notice, Abraham wasn’t told to sacrifice a daughter.”
On the show, Greene played Ben Cartwright, the father of three adult sons. The TV show followed Ben and his sons as they tried to survive life on the frontier. Often, Greene’s character acted as a calming element in his sons’ lives. His sons Adam, Hoss and Little Joe would occasionally find themselves in trouble. Ben Cartwright was a kind of authoritative figure, with a high code of honor.
Lorne Greene on the Show
Greene admitted that he based the character off his own father. Greene’s father played a guiding hand in the future actor’s life as a kid and often kept him out of trouble. When the cameras weren’t rolling, Greene also acted as a father figure to his co-stars Michael Landon and Dan Blocker.
He helped guide them through the complicated and often contradictory film business. With Greene’s advice, both actors ended up becoming millionaires by 1966. Of course, Landon would later pay it forward by becoming a father figure to young actors on “Little House on the Prairie.”
The show rested on the dynamic between father and son both on and off screen.
So perhaps, it was prophetic that the show ended after actor Dan Blocker died between seasons. Blocker played one of Cartwright’s sons, Hoss. His good nature and warmth made him the heart of the show. No father should ever have to bury his son, not even an on-screen one. Greene predicted that the show wouldn’t survive after Blocker’s death. And just a season later the network ended up canceling “Bonanza.”