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Bonanza: A Viewer's Guide to the TV Legend Paperback – May 21, 2010
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- Publisher : BearManor Media (May 21, 2010)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 170 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1593935412
- ISBN-13 : 978-1593935412
- Item Weight : 14.4 ounces
- Dimensions : 8.5 x 0.36 x 11 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,215,554 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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In "Bonanza: A Viewer's Guide to the TV Legend," David Greenland takes readers back to the days when Ben, Adam, Hoss and Little Joe not only ruled the NBC prime-time schedule, but were also a cultural phenomenon.
The series inspired merchandise including novels for both adults and young readers, comic books, collector plates, View-Master reels, and soundtrack albums featuring the cast. (It even provided Ben Cartwright himself, Lorne Greene, a six-album recording career.) By 1966, the show was so popular that it was even being used to sell issues of "Rod and Custom" magazine. (The sight of Dan Blocker tooling around a Western backlot on a minibike must be seen to be believed.)
Greenland argues that what inspired the big bonanzas of merchandising and viewer loyalty was not that the Cartwrights' adventures were the first network series to air in color, but that they had a humanity that other Westerns of the lone-gunfighter-wandering-the-West variety lacked. Indeed, series creator/producer David Dortort writes in a foreword that the difficulties of producing such a series ("The Restless Gun"), which was reliant on one star, inspired him to create a series in which an ensemble would "carry the freight."
And "carry the freight" they did. Greenland shows how the series and its ensemble were able to handle both comedy and drama, and how, under the guise of an "oater," they examined contemporary issues such as racism, domestic violence, mental illness, political corruption, and the generation gap. The show's ability to reflect modern society, he believes, gives "Bonanza" a timeless quality other Westerns lack.
He goes on to provide biographies of all the regular cast members and details of the series' production. Then he examines the series itself by dividing it into three eras: the "early classics," which includes the entirety of the Pernell Roberts era and the first two seasons of the "lost episodes"; the "ranging wide" era, in which the series took on more of the aspects of traditional Westerns; and the "back at the ranch" era, which includes Mitch Vogel's run as Jamie Hunter, a fresh outlet for Ben's paternal advice, and the death of Dan Blocker, which created a void the show struggled to fill as its ratings floundered in a new Tuesday-evening timeslot outside its longtime Sunday-night berth.
Greenland also provides fresh perspective on Roberts' departure in 1965, noting that the actor wanted Adam to marry a Native American woman-and that he wanted an African-American actress to portray said bride. When his request was refused, because Dortort thought it "an empty gesture toward civil rights," Roberts decided to coast, delivering lines without conviction and fading into the background as much as possible in episodes not featuring Adam as the central character, before finally leaving.
This book's only weakness, for which I deducted a star, is a perfunctory episode guide which provides little information about individual episodes beyond a one- or two-sentence plot description. I know the book would have been much thicker, and hence more expensive, but I'm the sort who enjoys as much detail as possible about individual episodes' production, as well as credit for individual writers and directors.
Still, this is a valuable resource for "Bonanza" fans, and is highly recommended.
Dortort and he didn't disappoint. Great way to see if you want to watch a particular show and locations are noted in the back of the book with short descriptions of each episode. Fine details in the beginning of the book about the show, the directors and the actors. Well worth the cost which is negligible since the content is so precise. Greenland did a fine job.
Top reviews from other countries
There is an interesting foreword by the producer, David Dortort, in which he explains why he chose to create Bonanza with four starring actors instead of just one.
Mr Greenland writes in an intelligent and articulate way about how the series came to be created and how it developed over time.
At the back of the book is a list of all the episodes, with a very short statement of what each episode is about. This list was my main reason for buying this book and I had expected more to be written about the plot of each episode. I wonder if Mr Greenland was afraid of spoiling the storylines for us; or was it simply lack of space? Only occasionally are the screenwriter(s) and director(s) of an episode listed and that only if there is something particularly noteworthy, such as if Michael Landon is directing as well as acting in an episode. The main guest actors in an episode are always listed but not which roles they played.
Another reviewer mentioned the lack of an index at the back of this book. I admit i hadn't given a thought to the lack of an index until i read his review, but if someone wanted to use this as a reference book to check some fact or other, an index would save time. Again, of course, it would add to the cost.
In one way i'm disappointed in this book. The print throughout is rather small and the print is very, very small under photographs. Don't the publishers realize many of us became fans by watching Bonanza on black-and-white television in the 1960s and now our eyes have aged so that we have difficulty with small print?
All in all, i recommend this book. I thought at first it was a bit pricey but on reconsideration i think it is value for money.