CBS Home Entertainment augments the copious love that it shows "TV Land" westerns with releases such as the recent (reviewed) EPIC "Gunsmoke" 65th Anniversary complete series DVD set with the October 27, 2020 DVD releases of "Bonanza" S11 (1969-70) V1 and V2. The dearth of new material, much of which lack much quality, during COVID-19 makes this an even better time to overcome prejudice regarding westerns and realizing that these entertaining shows are well-produced dramas that just happen to be roughly set in the Reconstruction Era.
"Bonanza" centers around truly benevolent one-percenter Ponderosa Ranch owner Ben Cartwright (Lorne Greene). Ben, sons "Hoss" (Dan Blocker) and "Little Joe" (Michael Landon), and les freres Cartwrights' frere from another mere (no pun intend) "Candy" (David Canary). These "white hats" run the operation when they are not putting right what once went wrong in nearby Virginia City, Nevada and everywhere else that their business takes them. Those of us who come late to the hoedown do not know the third Cartwright brother from Adam.
The simple but brilliant concept of having various members of the Cartwright clan get involved with the lives of the (often "TV Land" notable) guest star of the week facilitates simultaneous filming of the pristinely upgraded S11 episodes.
S11 kicks off on a strong note with the "kids" seeing a man who is from nowhere near La Mancha rowing across a government-owned prairie that the Cartwrights lease as grazing land. This newcomer who delights in tilting at windmills is in town to highlight an absurd federal law. Getting the better of greedy locals is the icing on the cake.
Another early S11 episode with even stronger (and more timely) social commentary hits very close-to-home. Moderately ala your not-so-humble reviewer in June, Candy is peacefully going about his business when the local law in the town that he is visiting hauls him in for a crime of which he is innocent. The sheriff also turns a deaf ear to the assertions of innocence by Candy. The modern twist on this story is initiating the showing of my license and being 120 miles away watching DVD episodes of "The Nanny" in the midst of the lockdown when the first of two claimed offenses occurred. The doubling-down of refusing to locate a readily available witness at the time of the second offense made things even worse. This is on top of apparently massive stupidity in the form of sitting on a bench by a police car within minutes of allegedly causing mayhem.
Being proactively cooperative and the lack of any appearance of being at all a hardened criminal and the inability of the police to prove presence at the scene of that crime were completely ignored.
Returning to our regularly scheduled programming, Hoss is the victim of a miscarriage of frontier justice in the penultimate S11 episode. He learns that no good deed goes unpunished when his friendliness to two men that he meets on the trail leads to an unfortunate incarceration for a bank robbery as to which he lacks any culpability.
"The Law and Billy Burgess" stars teen-idol David Cassidy as the titular old west excitable boy. Related woes of Billy include great disdain for the local little school on the prairie and a hard-knock life with a hard-nosed stepfather. Cassidy providing an overly dramatic reading of his line that he does not need school because he wants to be a blacksmith is an S11 highlight.
The law part enters the picture when the teacher schooling Billy prompts the boy to make a threat; the educator subsequently being murdered and Billy confessing to the crime makes a bad situation worse. The rude awakening of Billy as to this is a nice commentary on the folk lore of the old west.
John "Gomez" Astin provides another notable appearance in the role of a literal gold digger that makes excellent use of his offbeat persona. Adams plays the titular prospector in "Abner Willoughby's Return." His crossing paths with Little Joe leads to the pair teaming up for a treasure hunt that literally finds Willoughby walking across roofs and scaling fences. The true innocent this time is a sympathetic widow who unknowingly is sitting on a figurative gold mine.
CBSHE supplements the S11 fun with a plethora of extras that include some original episode promos, extensive photo galleries of on-location and behind-the-scenes images, and a rare Chevrolet sponsor commercial starring Greene.
The big picture is that, ala ALL CBSHE sets of classic series, they don't make 'em like "Bonanza" anymore despite a desperate need for quality unreal TV during our every season of discontent these days.