Bonanza debuted on NBC on September 12th 1959 and ran until January 16th 1973. It was on for 14 years and was only second to Gunsmoke for the longest running western in television history.
Originally placed opposite the popular Perry Como Show, Bonanza was about to be cancelled but in a last ditch effort they moved it to Sunday nights at 9pm and the show skyrocketed!
The cast of Lorne Green, Dan Blocker, Pernell Roberts and Michael Landon were phenomenal! Michael Landon, who played “Little Joe” was fast becoming a teen idol and was featured shirtless in several episodes once producers realized the appeal therin.
Another interesting factoid… Pernell Roberts was feeling stagnent as an actor and was ready to leave the show. Lorne Greene told him to hang on because he would be financially set for life if he played his cards right. Roberts left anyway and went through a “dead zone” for years after that until he hit it with Trapper John M.D. in the late 70’s.
The open (which you see here) was one of the most recognizable in television history. After the fact it was noted that the map had incorrect bearings. Choosing not to redo the open producers decided to alter the compass points instead.
It remains one of the greatest shows in television history.
(Crazy trivia: Dan Blocker, Lorne Greene and Pernell Roberts all wore toupee”s during the series. Michael Landon did not)