That old show “Bonanza”

Remember when “Bonanza” ruled the airwaves as a family-oriented, wholesome one-hour weekly TV show? I would settle down to watch the head of family and his three sons, one of whom didn’t last long in the series and whose career didn’t extend much beyond “Bonanza.” He was the sophisticated brother, given to sardonic facial expressions and never allowed to express himself in a different character mode. His name is on the tip of my brain, a shame really, because I respected him as an actor. He just didn’t get the breaks, and I believe he died young in actual life.

What was not to like in Hoss, the big guy in the white hat, or Little Joe who went on to make his own series “Little House On the Prairie,” or Dad with his constant wisdom, dispensed when the need arose, like “Father Knows Best.”

“Bonanza” is still being reprised on a cable channel, just before “JAG,” and I catch the endings and marvel at the absolute Phoniness of the sets. Were we viewers so naive that we accepted the stage shrubbery, the clean-swept trails without noticing their studio-set fakery? The ladies are the most unreal in this, a western on a relatively remote ranch, every hair in place, makeup almost mask-like in perfection, the acting just very much like that — acting.

We viewers must have been ripe for that and glad to be entertained with such Cleanness. How we have moved on to dark storylines of today, replete with perversions and cruelty. As our society becomes more frank and open about the dark side, so are those qualities selling to the public with a will.

All of this didn’t happen behind our backs. We saw it coming and we met it with gusto. We recognize those faces, which are ourselves.


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