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Up until September of 2009, the only authorized DVD edition of BONANZA was a double-disc set with a selection of episodes from Artisan Entertainment, and that was out-of-print as of 2006. The only other versions have been cheap public domain editions containing bad copies of various episodes that have fallen out-of-copyright. This four-disc set, containing the first half of the series' 1959-1960 opening season, changes all of that -- fortunately for fans of the series, there seem to be not only perfect copies of the first-season shows, but copies with the original network intros, "bumpers," and outros. The option of seeing those particular shows is one of the highlights of this DVD set, which offers about the best-looking account of the series that this reviewer -- a longtime fan -- has ever seen.
BONANZA was the first television western series shot in color, and it was a major undertaking for NBC -- which was tied corporately to RCA, which was not only marketing color television sets but also owned the patent on the color television system adopted by the FCC -- even if most viewers in 1959 couldn't avail themselves of Bert Glennon's cinematography on the premiere episode, or the rest of the season that followed; it would be a decade after BONANZA premiered before this reviewer's family got their first color television set. The full-screen (1.33-to-1) transfers look fine and the sound is mastered at a healthy volume, and the chaptering follows the credit and commercial break-points. Each disc here comes with bonus features, in the form of stills from relevant episodes and events, and short interviews (dating from 2002) with series creator/producer David Dortort, devoted to such matters as Michael Landon's and Dan Blocker's recruitment into the series, and the creation of the map of the Ponderosa ranch. Those are interesting, and the Blocker segment is highly informative as well, but the best bonus feature -- apart from the long-lost "song outro" from the debut episode (in which the Cartwrights leave Virginia City singing the BONANZA theme song -- the only time it was ever heard that way) -- is an episode of FIRESIDE THEATRE entitled "MAN OF THE COMSTOCK" from 1953; written by Dortort, the latter half-hour black-and-white show, starring Bruce Bennett and Andrea King, was the beginning of the inspiration behind BONANZA. All of these extras, as well as the presentation of the shows, makes it a must-own for fans of the series, no matter how many times they may have seen the episodes involved.