Bonanza – 14 seasons, 431 episodes
Bonanza, the first Western televised in color, premiered on a Saturday night in the fall of 1959. After Gunsmoke, Bonanza was the longest-running and most successful Western in U.S. television, airing for fourteen seasons.
The four main characters are father Ben Cartwright, (Lorne Greene, 1915–1987) and his three sons, Adam, (Pernell Roberts, 1928–2010) Hoss, (Dan Blocker, 1928–1972) and Little Joe Cartwright, (Michael Landon, 1936–1991) . The four of them tackle adventures together on the Ponderosa and protect their family and community.
Ben Cartwright had lost three wives tragically, and had one son with each wife. Early episodes of “Bonanza” showed Ben’s wives through flashbacks. Through these glimpses viewers could understand Ben’s sentimental side. Ben is sensible and kind, yet firm when dealing with tough issues. He discusses with his sons their responsibilities and gives them advice. All the Cartwright sons developed relationships throughout the seasons, but most of the women that came into their lives died tragically.
NBC audiences from September 1959 to February 1973 saw this map every week in the opening credits of the Paramount Television show. It would appear briefly before it burst into flames, dissolving into a shot of all four members of the Cartwright family, astride their horses, as the memorable theme played.
The map is a beauty, hand-drawn in intense colors. But it has a flaw. Looking at it as it was designed, the map shows Reno to the west of Carson City. In reality, Reno sits to the north.