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DVD Review: Bonanza: The Official Complete Series

May 23, 2023

By John Corrado

The Western series Bonanza has long been one of the crown jewels in NBC’s roster, and Paramount Home Entertainment is now releasing the entire series on DVD in a massive box set that contains all 431 episodes of the show from across its fourteen seasons, which ran from 1959 to 1973.

The show follows the day-to-day lives of the Cartwright family living on their Ponderosa Ranch near Virginia City, Nevada in the 1860s. There’s father Ben (Lorne Green) and three adult sons Adam (Pernell Roberts), Hoss (Dan Blocker) and Little Joe (Michael Landon), from Ben’s three different wives who have all passed on.

The first Western TV series in colour (and second-longest running only to CBS’s Gunsmoke), Bonanza has certainly taken its place in TV history, and it continues to air in syndication. The press release boasts that the series is presented with original music and that each full-length episode has been restored and remastered from the original 35mm camera negatives, and I have to say that the show looks great, allowing us to appreciate the gorgeous frontier vistas.

The set also includes other elements as well. For example, you have the option of watching the original Pilot episode (A Rose for Lotta) as it initially aired with the original NBC logo and RCA promos, which adds to the nostalgic viewing experience. As someone who has always enjoyed Old Westerns (despite being born a couple decades after Bonanza ended its run), this makes the set a treat to go through, and the show still offers solid entertainment value with its mix of family dynamics and dramatic storylines, often build around moral predicaments related to the time period.

This is quite a hefty set (the entire thing weighs in at 6.5 pounds), with the discs held in four separate plastic cases (Seasons 1-4, Seasons 5-8, Seasons 9-11, Seasons 12-14) that slip inside a cardboard case, with artwork on all sides and each of the four main characters adorning the covers of the individual cases. It’s an attractive collection for fans of the show, or classic TV completists.

Bonus Features (DVD):

There are a variety of bonus materials across the dozens of discs, including photo galleries, archival footage, and commentary tracks on certain episodes.

The press release also boasts that the set includes “an exclusive Bonus Disc containing nearly 2 ½ hours of content, with rare performances, photos, personal appearances and interviews with cast members, and footage from “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson,” “The Ed Sullivan Show” and “Sesame Street,” plus a never-before-seen blooper reel.” Per the release, bonus material is listed below.

  • Michael Landon Visits Sweden – Interview (1962)
  • “Lorne Greene’s Bonanza” — episode of the CBC series, Telescope, chronicling “a day in the life” of the beloved actor, including rare behind-the-scenes BONANZA set footage (1963)
  • Lorne Greene Interview — episode of the CBC series, Take 30 (1966)
  • All-American Soap Box Derby Featurettes
  • “The Long, Happy Race” – Narrated by Lorne Greene (1962)
  • “Sideline …? Or Starting Line?” – Narrated by Dan Blocker (1964)
  • The Cartwrights Visit Sesame Street (1970)
  • The Last Party (“wake” gathering of the BONANZA company days after the series’ abrupt cancellation in November 1972; audio with slide show)
  • Bonanza Blooper/Gag Reel
  • Michael Landon: Question & Answer session with Vikki Carr and The Tonight Show audience (audio with slide show; 1973)
  • Lorne Greene: Comedy Routine (1981)
  • New Featurette: Mariette Hartley’s Memories
  • Public Service Announcement (P.S.A.): Endangered Wildlife – with Lorne Greene (1975)
  • U.S. Savings Bonds P.S.A.s with Lorne Greene and Dan Blocker (1968)
  • Salute to BONANZA (Narrated by Orson Welles; 1976)
  • Michael Landon: The Last Interview (slide show with audio; March 1991)
  • BONANZA Episode Trailers with rare on-camera introductions
  • “Mighty Is The Word” (Introduced by Lorne Greene; 1965)
  • “The Prince” (Introduced by Dan Blocker; 1967)
  • “Dark Enough to See the Stars” (Introduced by Michael Landon; 1967)
  • 1959 NBC Fall Preview promo – announcing BONANZA’s premiere
  • 1961 NBC on-air promo narrated by Lorne Greene
  • 1967 NBC Fall Preview promo – BONANZA (designed by Bill Feigenbaum)
  • 1972 Chevrolet Billboard Intro.
  • The Ed Sullivan Show — Pernell Roberts Sings (1965)
  • The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson – Lorne Greene Interview (1972)
  • Gallery of rare publicity, episodic, “behind-the-scenes” and portrait photos

Bonanza: The Official Complete Series is a Paramount Home Entertainment release.

Street Date: May 23rd, 2023

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