Ponderosa (TV series)

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Genre Western
Created by Beth Sullivan
Starring Matthew Carmody
Daniel Hugh Kelly
Drew Powell
Jared Daperis
Brad Dourif
Josephine Byrnes
Fernando Carrillo
Sara Gleeson
Nicky Wendt
Gareth Yuen
Jacqueline Aries
Marcella Toro
Peter Stefanou
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 1
No. of episodes 20
Running time 49 minutes
Production company(s) Paxson Entertainment
Original network PAX
Picture format NTSC
Audio format Stereo
Original release September 9, 2001 (2001-09-09) – May 12, 2002 (2002-05-12)
Related shows Bonanza

Ponderosa is a television series developed by Bonanza creator David Dortort for PAX-TV (now known as ION) that ran for the 2001–2002 television season.

Envisioned as a prequel to the long-running NBC series Bonanza, covering the time when the Cartwrights first arrived at the Ponderosa, when Adam and Hoss were teenagers and Joe a little boy, it had less gunfire, brawling and other traditional western elements than the original.
Bonanza creator; David Dortort, approved PAX TV's decision to hire Beth Sullivan, creator and executive producer of Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman, to oversee scripts and executive produce, which some believe gave the series a softer edge.

Ponderosa was canceled after one season, in part because of disappointing ratings and high production costs. Although Sullivan had hoped to film the series in and around Los Angeles, PAX decided to film in Australia to reduce costs.
Series "show runner" Sullivan sustained severe injuries in a car crash only 12 days after the airing of the first season's last episode.

The show should not be confused with Ponderosa, the title used for Bonanza reruns aired on NBC during the summer of 1972.[1]


and others


Territory of Nevada, year 1849: ten years before the original Bonanza starts, the Cartwright family moves onto some scrub land. In this new land Ben Cartwright, a new widower, tries to raise his three young sons - at their late teens Adam and Hoss, and a pre-teen Joseph, commonly known as Little Joe.


A number of minor (or perceived) inconsistencies exist between Ponderosa and Bonanza, and a few glaring retcons are present.

  • Most notable among these is the fate of Little Joe's mother. In the original series, her death was depicted in the episode "Marie, My Love" (4x20) as a result of falling off a horse in front of the Ponderosa ranch house.[2] In the new series, she is killed in Virginia City by a miner who is trying to murder Eli Orowitz.[3] Making the situation even more confusing, the pilot for the original series identifies Little Joe's mother as Felicia and not Marie as in the original.[2]
  • The Hop Sing character is depicted not only as a cook but also a family counselor and herbal healer.

Episode list[edit]

# Title Original air date
"Pilot (Part 1)" September 9, 2001 (2001-09-09)
Ben Cartwright moves his family to Lake Tahoe, seeking to open a cattle ranch. Trouble arises, however, when a mining prospector seeks to claim the same property as Cartwright.
2 "Pilot (Part 2)" September 9, 2001 (2001-09-09)
After his third wife is murdered by the prospector, Ben seeks an end to the developing feud. At the same time, Little Joe decides to take matters into his own hands and goes after the killer. At the same time, Ben hires Carlos and Hop Sing to work at his ranch.
3 "Joaquin" September 16, 2001 (2001-09-16)
Hoss and Little Joe are in for a shock when an accused gunman known as "Joaquin" is rumored to be in town. Joaquin is a well known outlaw who teaches Adam how to shoot a pistol, something that his father refuses him to have.
4 "Bare Knuckles" September 23, 2001 (2001-09-23)
Hoss decides to challenge "Iron Hands" Malloy, a renowned fighter, to a boxing match. However Adam does some digging and finds that this particular fighter is known for his cheating...
5 "Promise" September 30, 2001 (2001-09-30)
After Adam shoots and kills a robber, he makes a promise to watch out for the man's family. At the same time a former slave named Samuel Washington, but who in reality is Samuel Newborn shows up in town peddling items that he claims are passed down from George Washington's mansion.
6 "Homeland" October 14, 2001 (2001-10-14)
Carlos is reunited with his long-lost sister Isabella whom he had been separated from during the Mexican–American War. Destitute and homeless, Ben agrees to take her in, but when a sheriff enters town on the trail of a killer things become complex as Isabella's horse once belonged to the murdered man.
7 "Quarantine" October 28, 2001 (2001-10-28)
A deadly illness afflicts the area, putting the town under a quarantine.
8 "Secrets & Lies" October 14, 2001 (2001-10-14)
An author whose adopted son lived through Donner Party seeks out Adam, of all people, to write the "true story" of what happened. At the same time, Ben does some soul-searching in regards to past mistakes while secrets hidden by Margaret and Shelby are revealed.
9 "The Legend of John Riley" October 18, 2001 (2001-10-18)
When a known traitor who fought for Mexico against his country of birth, one John Riley, takes up residence at the Ponderosa, a wedge is driven between members of the Cartwright family and their friends. Particularly upset is Tess, who opposes the man because her own father was killed in the Mexican–American War.
10 "Brother vs. Brother" December 2, 2001 (2001-12-02)
A dance is being held in town and everyone is trying to find the perfect date. Tess tries to woo Adam, but is too late when Isabella asks him first. Margaret and Shelby also get in on the fun, both battling for Ben's affections.
11 "Where the Heart Is" December 16, 2001 (2001-12-16)
Ben's sister-in-law comes to town with the intention of taking Little Joe back to New Orleans, determined to fulfill a promise she made to her sister before the Cartwrights moved to Nevada.
12 "Treasure" January 6, 2002 (2002-01-06)
Adam, Carlos, and Hoss find a treasure map in the hands of a dead man. The three decide to follow it to the riches apparently hidden by the man, but, as one would expect, they are being followed by others who know about the map.
13 "Spoils of War" January 13, 2002 (2002-01-13)
A former friend of Carlos' named Manuel comes to Ponderosa. He reacts with shock and disgust at Carlos' employment with the Cartwrights as it was the Americans who defeated their people in the Mexican–American War. At the same time, he sets into motion a plan to retake the land around Lake Tahoe. It is the last episode with Carlos as he is killed by a robber that is working with Manuel.
14 "A Time to Win" January 20, 2002 (2002-01-20)
An entrepreneur comes to town, builds a new hotel, and seeks to expand the town's market, but what is he really after?
15 "Blind Faith" February 10, 2002 (2002-02-10)
A rainmaker with a beautiful daughter named Judith comes to town. Hoss immediately falls for her, but can the good reverend really perform miracles?
16 "Lesser of Evils" February 17, 2002 (2002-02-17)
Isabella's childhood sweetheart, long thought dead, arrives at the Ponderosa and wants to pick up where they left off. Isabella is torn between doing just that or trying to continue her blossoming relationship with Adam.
17 "Comes a Horse" March 24, 2002 (2002-03-24)
An illness sweeps through the cattle all around Lake Tahoe, leading to calls to destroy all the livestock.
18 "Grown Ups" April 28, 2002 (2002-04-28)
Hoss and Tess discover an abandoned baby and consider marrying in order to raise the child together.
19 "Samson and Hercules" May 5, 2002 (2002-05-05)
Hoss sets out to end wolf fights that are being held in town as a gambling event.
20 "Fugitive" May 12, 2002 (2002-05-12)
Sam Newborn returns on the run after a new law states that escaped slaves in any territory must be captured and returned to their owners.

DVD release[edit]

Shortly after the series first aired, four episodes were released on two DVDs. The first DVD featured both parts of the pilot episode, while the second featured "Brother vs. Brother" and "Treasure".

On May 25, 2004,[4] The Ponderosa: Season 1: Volume 1 was released. This set collects the first ten episodes of the series. No plans have been announced yet to release the last ten episodes of the series on DVD.


  • Though Ponderosa takes place in what is today the state of Nevada, Nevada Territory did not actually exist in 1849. That area (along with the portions ceded to Nevada later on) was part of Utah Territory at the time that the series takes place. Nevada Territory did not split off until 1861, meaning that until at least the 5th season (the episode "Enter Thomas Bowers" establishes that year as 1857), Bonanza technically should have been set in Utah Territory as well.


  1. ^ Brooks, Tim, and Earle Marsh, The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946-Present (Sixth Edition), New York: Ballantine Books, 1995, ISBN 0-345-39736-3, p. 123.
  2. ^ a b Bonanza: Marie, My Love - TV.com
  3. ^ The Ponderosa: Pilot (1) - TV.com
  4. ^ Amazon.com: The Ponderosa: Season 1: Vol. 1 - Prequel to the TV Classic Bonanza: Movies & TV: Ponderosa

External links[edit]