One of these days I’m going to watch all 431 “Bonanza” episodes in order. I would like to tabulate, for my own edification, how many homicides the Cartwrights were involved in during the course of the series. I’m guessing quite a few.
The other night we were mindlessly scrolling for something to watch and happened upon a Season 2 episode called “Spitfire.” In it, Little Joe kills a girl’s father in self-defense. The next few scenes are played for laughs. The girl, you see, is feisty. The Cartwrights struggle to teach her about table manners and personal hygiene.
Then the girl’s relatives show up wanting revenge. There’s more gunplay. Another homicide. What a mixup! Little Joe never says, “Shit, I wish now I hadn’t killed your dad,” but you know he’s thinking it.
Intrigued, I picked another episode at random (“The Stranger”). Soon, Little Joe again kills a man in self-defense. He does it because the man is there to arrest Ben Cartwright, who himself killed a man in New Orleans some years back. In self-defense, of course.
Those Cartwrights. If they’re not committing homicides, they’re getting framed for them. But they keep strutting around with their low-slung holsters, never wondering if the guns are really necessary for day-to-day operations on the Ponderosa.
When you wonder why so many states have “stand your ground” laws, you need look no further than ’60s television. My favorite paean to justifiable homicide is “The Rifleman,” but Bonanza is right up there.
Captioning wasn’t available when I sat with the family and watched the screen. Made for Interesting internal dialog.
Dave Knadler says
These days I have captions on all the time.
John H. says
I know people who think these shows are an accurate depiction of frontier life, and consider it a kind of golden age. Scary thought.
Dave Knadler says
My favorite toys as a kid included a Mattel Fanner 50 and BB gun. I blame Bonanza for that too.