Wednesday, January 16, 2013
40 years ago: On January 16, 1973, after 14 seasons and 430 episodes, NBC Television broadcast the final hour of the Western drama “Bonanza,” which had become a heavily merchandised hit after its premiere in September 1959. It was the second-longest-running TV Western (behind “Gunsmoke” on CBS). The show’s patriarch, Ben Cartwright, had three ethnically-different sons by three deceased wives: Adam (English), Eric (“Hoss,” Swedish) and “Little Joe” (French Creole), all coping with weekly family problems on the 600,000-acre Ponderosa ranch at Lake Tahoe, Nevada. The series, with its catchy theme song, was unusual in its focus on family and major social issues, which included the environment, substance abuse, domestic violence and assorted forms of bigotry. But, alas, matrimony was off-limits: any woman courted by a Cartwright either became fatally ill, got killed or chose another man.