I found a pack of Bonanza DVDs on sale for five dollars. I hadn't seen the show in years, so I parted with a fin and took the DVDs back to my private Ponderosa.
The four of us sat down to watch the first episode. When it was over, I glanced at my wife, and she rolled her eyes. Then we asked the girls what they thought. “I kinda liked it.” “Me too. I want to see the rest of them!”
Half-a-dozen episodes later I think I understand the appeal. As with Star Trek, Bonanza is a show firmly established within its own time, the 60s. Unlike Star Trek, where much of the social commentary is implicit, Bonanza's social commentary is explicit — and more emotionally compelling for it. A ten-year-old will understand a Star Trek episode like "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield," but she will viscerally get what racism is all about when she watches Hop Sing's nephew get beat up by Carson City thugs.
It also helps that the young Michael Landon is a tad dishier than, say, a young Walter Koenig.
A final word on the quality of the DVDs: wow, are they crappy. They look like an old VHS tape has been transferred to the new format. Throw in a copyright issue that prevents the use of the familiar “Bonanza” theme song, and this collection is a marked step down from something you might purchase from one of Hop Sing's nephews. Still, it's the best five dollars I've spent in quite a while.
But speaking of television...