Classic Video Showplace

CLASSIC VIDEO SHOWPLACE: The Successes of “Bonanza”

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For over a hundred years some of the greatest video treasures of all time have been produced. Some have been lost in the sands of time and others, soon to be rediscovered, will become fan favorites for a whole new generation.   Each week we will feature just one of the many hidden gems that you can see on RCN TV with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances.

 RCN-TV is kicking off its spring programming schedule this month with the return of popular television shows plus additional programs making their first-ever appearances on our channel.

Today we look at the return of Bonanza to RCN-TV and its successes in the entertainment industry! 

The reappearance of Bonanza on the RCN-TV programming lineup signifies the return of one of the most successful television programs of all-time.

The show is NBC’s longest running primetime television show and is the second-longest western program (behind CBS’s Gunsmoke) in the medium’s history.

Bonanza was the first series to appear in the Top Five list for nine consecutive seasons (a record that would stand for many years) and thus established itself as the most consistent strong-performing hit television series of the 1960s.

One unique thing about the 1963-64 season of Bonanza…it triggered something that hadn’t been accomplished in over three decades.  Bonanza was the show that “brought down” The Jack Benny Program.

The comedian had won his timeslot on radio and television every year since 1932 until NBC scheduled the relatively new western program opposite the popular entertainer, although with some “programming trickery” involved.

You see, the network started the 60-minute western a half hour before Benny’s program.  The gimmick worked so well that, according to his memoir, Sunday Nights at Seven, Benny found himself tuning into and watching Bonanza! To his horror, three-quarters through each episode, he would suddenly realize he forgot to switch over to his OWN show!

Another unique characteristic that showed the popularity of this western…it’s one of the few shows EVER on television that had its own reruns added to its network’s primetime lineup.

NBC retitled the show’s reruns as The Ponderosa during the 1971-72 season and aired “old” yet often requested episodes.  NBC utilized a similar “trick” as above when they started the show at 7:30pm and it “spilled over” into the prime-time lineup and held its own competition with “first-run” episodic shows on ABC and CBS.

Another rarity that highlights its popularity…the show was one of the first programs in the first 50 years of television that was sold into syndication in 1970 to off-network affiliates BEFORE it ended its’ initial network run.  Both the “new” and syndicated shows continued to earn solid ratings before the show finally fell out of the Nielsen Ratings’ Top 10 in 1972. One of TV’s biggest and most popular stars, actor Dan Blocker (Hoss Cartwright), unexpectedly died that year, playing a major role in this event.

In 2002, Bonanza was ranked No. 43 on TV Guide‘s 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time and in 2013 TV Guide included it in its list of The 60 Greatest Dramas of All Time.

We’ll have more on this legendary television program including more unique stories and histories of its famous stars on upcoming editions of the Classic Video Showplace.

In the meantime, be sure to catch the return of Bonanza to RCN TV on our new spring programming lineup.  Tune in or set your DVRs for Sunday mornings at 9 am on RCN-TV.

To view the complete rundown of classic programming on RCN TV, check out the weekly listings here on our website.