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Category:    Home > Reviews > Western > TV > Bonanza – The Official First Season, Volume One + Volume Two (1959 – 1960/CBS DVD)

Bonanza – The Official First Season, Volume One + Volume Two (1959 – 1960/CBS DVD)


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: C+     Episodes: B



After so many bad DVD editions with bad prints, the hit Western TV series Bonanza finally gets proper DVD treatment and respect in The First Official Season DVD Set.  It is available as two separate volumes or combined in a thicker set.


Like many Westerns, this focuses on a family, in this case, The Cartwrights.  NBC was anxious to have a competitor against CBS’ Gunsmoke (reviewed elsewhere on this site) and to up the ante, though hardly any color TVs existed, they began shooting the show in color from the beginning and the result was a huge hit and the second longest running Western behind Gunsmoke ever made.


Lorne Greene played Ben, the head of the family in a role that made him a huge star.  Michael Landon, Dan Blocker and Pernell Roberts played his sons and showed their struggles with bad people, powerful people, “Indians” and other troubles in the Wild West.  Yes, the show is not always politically correct and the Hollywood “Indians” are especially embarrassing and dated, but the writing was good and cast had instant chemistry that made the show a classic.


RCA owned NBC at the time and were anxious to take on CBS as well as spearhead the eventual arrival of color TV.  They were creating the technology to make them possible and of course, built TVs, so those factors had them backing this show.  Each Volume has 16 hour-long episodes when commercial interruptions were not tolerated as much and competition was richer.  These are also uncut, which was not always the case on cheaper releases.


No, it is not my favorite show and was no match for the likes of Have Gun, Will Travel, but it was meant to be broadly commercial and lasted 14 seasons.  NBC was the producer of this show with Paramount, yet it was supposedly shot at Warner Bros., but the series has landed up at CBS for whatever reason and they have done a nice enough job putting together this special edition.


Guest stars include Yvonne DeCarlo, Inger Stevens, John Larch, Alan Hale Jr., R.G. Armstrong, Mala Powers, Jack Carson, Ruth Roman, Arthur Hunnicut, Buddy Ebsen, John Stevenson, Jack Lord, Susan Oliver, Cameron Mitchell, Victor Sen Young, Sebastian Cabot, Everett Sloan, Ken Lynch, Lloyd Nolan, Grant Williams, Vic Morrow, Tor Johnson and Kathleen Crowley.



The 1.33 X 1 color image throughout the two volumes is a mixed bag.  Color can be good, but also looks poor at times, while the definition is sometimes sharp and sometimes too soft.  Consolidated Labs originally developed the show’s color and who knows how these prints were stored.  This is still superior to the awful DVDs and other home video copies floating around and will make fans happy enough.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono can be good, but is also sometimes compressed and aged, which is to be expected for a show so old.  CBS has done their best to fix these and the results are more good than bad.  Extras include promos, several archival interviews (up to 2002), stills, concept drawings, the option of watching a few shows with original RCA promos and Man Of The Comstock, an episode of Firesign Theater that served as the de facto pilot for this series.


It has not been seen in 53 years.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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