'Maybe I've never been to Heaven and maybe I'll never get the chance,' Opined Ben Cartwright, ' But Heaven will have to go some way to best the thousand square miles of the Ponderosa.'
And it certainly looks heavenly in the new remastered DVD.
The Cartwright clan are certainly an anti-social bunch and they treat everyone who rides onto their land with suspicion - even a beautiful actress, played by a young Yvonne De' Carlo, who is stranded when her wagon throws a wheel. However the actress charms the Cartwrights and youngest son, Elvis, I mean Joe, takes her back to the house for refreshments while pa and the other two boys help the driver fix the wagon.
Bad mistake for the actress is part of a plot to kidnap Elvis Cartwright in order to get at the Ponderosa's timber supplies.This leaves Pa Cartwright all shook up - Ben, you see is a man ahead of his time and believes that every tree is sacred and will allow not one single tree to be chopped down for use as supports in the mines that are ruining the landscape.
I've seen countless episodes of Bonanza over the years but seeing this pilot episode I was surprised at how tough the show originally was, of how much Little Joe resembles then current pop idol, Elvis Presley, of how Hoss' character was initially something of a hulking simpleton. At this stage in the show it was also less of an ensemble cast with Pernell Roberts clearly the star.
'The Lord sayeth: "An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" I want my son...or your life.' Ben Cartwright tells the cheif plotter, Alpheus Troy.
The characters of Bonanza became more refined and likeable as the series progressed, Ben Cartwright especially became a much more level headed man and Little Joe less of a rebel, far removed from the James Dead/Elvis Presley amalgamation he is presented as in this first episode, Hoss also developed from a hulking food obsessed simpleton to a likeable and gentle giant and Pernell Roberts had to take his place among the cast, but this is where the legend all started The show claimed a place in America's top ten shows and stayed there for over a decade Indeed for three successive years in the mid-60's it was the most watched show bar none.
I've subscribed to the part-work magazine which comes with a DVD each fortnight, containing three episodes of the series in the correct broadcast order so expect an episode by episode guide here on the Archive as I dip into the discs from time to time.
Trivia - in the original script the Ponderosa Ranch was actually named the Panamint after a mountain range in California. However the name was changed to the Ponderosa, which was a tree that was native to the area, at the eleventh hour.