After Bonanza, Michael Landon was sent dozens of scripts from fans

What do a doctor and a private detective have in common? They are both things Michael Landon hated reading about.

Image credit: The Everett Collection

When Bonanza ended in 1973, it was clear that many fans and the actors had all developed a deep bond with the characters on the show.

Michael Landon spent 14 years on the set of Bonanza, where he played the role of the youngest son, "Little Joe" Cartwright. He turned out not to be as little by the end of the series' 14 seasons.

In a 1973 interview with The Daily Advertiser, Landon said that after Bonanza had ended, he and other actors would receive TV pilot scripts submitted to them by fans and professionals alike.

"I'd rather be wrong with an original script idea than right with a copy," he said.

Landon said that nearly 30 private detective and doctor scripts were submitted to him for consideration around the time of this interview. However, there was one major problem with all the scripts Landon received: they were all alike. 

"In one detective series, the only thing different about it is that the guy's mother doesn't know he's a private eye," Landon said. "And in one of the doctors series, the doctor only takes incurable cases. So you know how that's going to turn out!"

Landon's criticism of scripts was based on his own writing. According to the interview, Landon had written and directed a number of scripts for Bonanza that have been acclaimed by critics.

Some of them are still loved by many fans today. 

In the '60s, Landon wrote his first script for the Western, "The Sound of Sadness." He said he wrote it because he thought the Bonanza scripts had started to become boring. 

Landon's last script for the Western series was "The Hunter." He said it was one of the best episodes to film.

According to the interview, the episode was filmed in Arizona, because of the state's dry climate. However, Landon said it began to rain and there was about three feet of water over the bridges. Cast and crew were afraid of getting trapped.

He said after the rain had stopped, the Bonanza cast employed a water truck and sprayer to create rain for the scene.

"So then the sprayer broke down and we had to have this guy riding on a boom with a Hudson sprayer, like the kind used to spray vegetable gardens, squirting water in the actors faces," he said.

According to Landon, when Bonanza first aired in 1959, there was no shortage of TV Westerns. In fact, Landon could've thought of another 20 to 30 of them. However, when Bonanza was canceled, Landon said Gunsmoke was the only Western that remained.

The TV star attributed the change in TV Westerns to changing trends and toy sales. He said kids weren't into playing cowboys anymore, not when they could be playing with rockets and other space games.

Landon also attributed it to no originality in scripts, particularly in Westerns.


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31 Comments

Kiwiman 25 days ago
Looks like I will be in for excitingly tv viewing, thank you.
Inthe25th 14 months ago
My favorite Bonanza episode is The Ballad of the Ponderosa where a young man is disturbed by thinking his father was killed unjustly and blames Ben Cartwright.
Pacificsun 15 months ago
The Michael Dunn comment below reminded me to add this.

In terms of working out a Western, IMO the WWW did the best job (creatively speaking) of all of them. Michael Garrison had the guts to step out with a novel idea, make it fun and spirited, and never apologized for steampunk imagination. More Westerns should've been innovative and unique. But going the formulaic direction was cheaper and more expedient for reaching production deadlines and profit.
Pacificsun 15 months ago
You can't write an original plot for a Western. But 𝒄𝒂𝒏 focus on characters with personalities and unique ways they overcome adversity. And what the viewer might learn from their example. I know people in the Sixties who offered scripts, probably through a connection. Then Representation became an absolute. I'm pretty sure concepts had to be run through an analyzer to avoid copyright accusations. And Representation would protect you from that risk.

In terms of writing today, IMO, not reading anyone's amateur work avoids risk. Because a person can be accused of anything. You kind of have to decide between being a consumer or an originator.
CoreyC 15 months ago
If The Brady Bunch went to season six and Robert Reed had to be replaced Michael Landon would have been the logical replacement as Mike Brady. I know he had LHOTP. It's only speculation.
Pacificsun CoreyC 15 months ago
Not that Robert Reed had any more of it, I don't think Michael Landon had enough warmth either. Fortunately, Florence Henderson and Ann B. Davis had enough to go around. But Landon just wasn't the naturally domestic type.
CoreyC Pacificsun 14 months ago
Michael had enough warmth as Charles Ingalls.
Zip CoreyC 14 months ago
That's what I was thinking. Michael, as Charles Ingalls, was the kind of guy you would have wanted as a friend and someone you could talk to. Maybe he was exhibited less warmth on Bonanza? I don't know, because I don't really watch it that much.
jeremylr 15 months ago
Fascinating article with great Landon quotes in the immediate aftermath of "Bonanza's" sudden cancellation. However, "The Sound of Sadness" was Landon's penultimate, 19th "Bonanza" script. He contributed 20 scripts in total to the series beginning with the action-packed "The Gamble" way back in season three [Frank Cleaver helped him polish the final version]. Five seasons later Landon's writing confidence and inspiration returned, resulting in more collaborations—"Ballad of the Ponderosa," "Joe Cartwright, Detective," and "The Wormwood Cup." "A Dream to Dream" from season nine was written solely by the 31-year-old star, and from then on Landon wrote alone. Poignant family drama, laugh out loud comedy, cowboy shoot-'em-ups—hands down Landon was prolific.

All of the Landon scripts for "Bonanza" are as follows:

1. "The Gamble" [season three, 1962, co-written with Frank Cleaver]
2. "Ballad of the Ponderosa" [season eight, 1966, co-written with Rik Vollaerts]
3. "Joe Cartwright, Detective" [season eight, 1967, teleplay by Michael Landon; story by Oliver Crawford]
4. "The Wormwood Cup" [season eight, 1967, co-written by Joy Dexter]
5. "Six Black Horses" [season nine, 1967, co-written by William Jerome]
6. "A Dream to Dream" [season nine, 1968]
7. "To Die in Darkness" [season nine, 1968]
8. "The Wish" [season 10, 1969]
9. "Dead Wrong" [season 11, 1969]
10. "It's a Small World" [season 11, 1970]
11. "Decision at Los Robles" [season 11, 1970]
12. "The Love Child" [season 12, 1970]
13. "Terror at 2:00" [season 12, 1971]
14. "Kingdom of Fear" [actually filmed in June 1968 for the 10th season but withheld in the wake of MLK and RFK's assassinations; finally broadcast in season 12, 1971]
15. "Don't Cry, My Son" [season 13, 1971]
16. "He Was Only Seven" [season 13, 1972]
17. "The Younger Brothers' Younger Brother" [season 13, 1972]
18. "Forever" [a two-hour episode premiering season 14, 1972]
19. "The Sound of Sadness" [season 14, 1972]
20. "The Hunter" [season 14, 1973]

Landon also began his directorial career on "Bonanza," helming 14 episodes. Usually he sat behind the camera for the scripts he penned. "To Die in Darkness" is the first from season nine. "The Stillness Within," where Little Joe is temporarily blinded in season 12, is atypical. Landon didn't write it [that credit goes to Suzanne Clauser] but did direct.
cperrynaples jeremylr 15 months ago
Let me guess: Was 10 inspired by the most annoying ride at Disneyland...LOL!
jeremylr cperrynaples 15 months ago
You made me chuckle there. "It's a Small World" deals with prejudice leveled upon little person Michael Dunn, aka Secret Service agent Jim Gordon's scene-stealing nemesis Dr. Loveless on "The Wild Wild West."
cperrynaples jeremylr 15 months ago
I sorta remember that! I remember better Cousin Itt as a leprechan][SP?]!
Andybandit 15 months ago
Michael was very successful after Bonanza, with LHOTP, and HTH. Both show had Victor French in them
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cperrynaples Mblack 15 months ago
Yes, he preceded Dave Ketchum as the agent who hides in unusual places! He was 44, Ketchum was 13!
cperrynaples Mblack 15 months ago
Yes, he preceded Dave Ketchum as the agent who hides in unusual places! He was 44, Ketchum was 13!
cperrynaples Mblack 15 months ago
Bonus Question: What former MeTV star played 44 at CBS?
cperrynaples cperrynaples 15 months ago
It was Al Molinaro from Happy Days!
Mblack 15 months ago
He did pretty well. Little House on the Praries, then Highway to Heaven. I watched neither first run, but both lasted for years.

Then the classic 1982 Love is Forever, where he scuba dives up a river to rescue his girlfriend, played by Emmanuelle, Laura Gemser.
LoveMETV22 15 months ago
cperrynaples LoveMETV22 15 months ago
BTW, according to the owl, it's "One, A-Twoo, Three [CRUNCH!]...Three"...LOL! And I bet Hoss could do THAT all-day sucker in three...LOL again! Remember the chicken wings opening from Season 12?
LoveMETV22 cperrynaples 15 months ago
Also we cant let your astute research skills go to waste.
So in honor of your keen efforts in providing the most accurate information.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
🎇🎇🎇🎇🎇 "𝘿𝙚𝙙𝙞𝙘𝙖𝙩𝙚𝙙 𝙩𝙤 𝙘𝙥𝙚𝙧𝙧𝙮𝙣𝙖𝙥𝙡𝙚𝙨"🎇🎇🎇🎇🎇

Take a bow! LOL!
cperrynaples LoveMETV22 15 months ago
Yep, I know everything! You knew the owl was Paul Winchell but did you know the boy was the late Peter Robbins AKA the original Charlie Brown?
Runeshaper LoveMETV22 15 months ago
HAHAHAHA!
cperrynaples Runeshaper 15 months ago
Yep, he "got a rock"...LOL!
cperrynaples 15 months ago
Well if he had done a doctor series, he would fall in love with the female patients, but they would all die on the operating table...LOL! And of course the chief of surgery would be Deforrest Kelly! "She's dead, Joe!"...LOL again! And wasn't Bones on Bonanza?
cperrynaples cperrynaples 15 months ago
One more thing: I saw The Hunter a few weeks ago, and every time Tom Skerett said "My duty!" I laughed out loud! Yep, I'm 64 but my level of humor has never changed...LOL!
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