Although Bonanza was a hit, Pernell Roberts wished he left the show sooner

"I thought it would be a sophisticated show."

On Now
Adam briefly loses his hair on Bonanza
Up Next:

Bonanza is one of the most popular classic Western series in television history. The show produced over 400 episodes through 14 seasons and it was one of the first to highlight social issues. Although viewers loved the show, one cast member felt it didn't live up to his expectations: Pernell Roberts.

We all know Roberts as Adam Cartwright in the series, the son of Ben Cartwright, who was the most educated of his brothers. The actor left the series after six seasons while its popularity increased, and the media criticized his decision. Roberts even felt his words were twisted "to fit a negative narrative" when he revealed why he left the show.

Although he left after his contract ended, Roberts wished he had left the show sooner. In an interview with the Chicago Tribune in 1979, the actor revealed that he didn't regret his decision to depart from the production.

The interviewer, Marilyn Beck, asked if he was "sorry he fled the Ponderosa after six seasons," and Roberts responded with, "God no! I'm sorry I wasn't able to get out of my contract and leave sooner."

Some might ask, "But what about the money?" since he was getting paid for his contributions to the role. Yet Pernell Roberts wasn't in the business for massive financial gain. He said, "So the others made millions. How much does one person need to live? I've never needed or wanted that much."

He often revealed his disappointment in the show's plot during interviews, and this one wasn't any different. "My problems with Bonanza were problems of communication," the actor added. "What we discussed [never happened]. I thought it would be a sophisticated show."

Being a big star was never Roberts' goal. "I've never been career-oriented. Did I ever want to be a star? What's a star? Is that something in the heavens?" he said. "That's the only definition that comes to my mind. And the most important goals in my life have been to move gently, to be at ease with the mystery of what it's all about."

It's safe to say that Pernell Roberts did what he felt was best for him.

Watch Bonanza on MeTV!

Monday - Saturday at 2 PM

*available in most MeTV markets
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?
Close

27 Comments

RedSamRackham 13 months ago
* Indeed after several seasons of 3 grown men living with their daddy with nothing ever changing and potential brides always dying or cancelling wedding plans Pernell Roberts showed integrity for leaving the series especially after viewers were totally stroked with that Laura Dayton season.
foxaiden844 13 months ago
Bonanza was the most popular tv shows from 1961-1971 when it ran from 1959-1973.
NorthRidge foxaiden844 13 months ago
Actually it was number 1 from 1963-1965.
Runeshaper 13 months ago
That's interesting. I can see if something doesn't live up to your expectations, but maybe he just wasn't enjoying his role or the show? I wouldn't have left if I was having a good time.
Tommy7777 Runeshaper 9 months ago
After a few years, he thought the show was absurd. It was becoming three middle-aged men living with their father. It stayed the same. No one could get married, formulaic plots.
harlow1313 13 months ago
It would have been interesting had he expounded on "sophisticated." Not many television shows fit that word.
Tommy7777 harlow1313 9 months ago
He stated that he thought the show would have a more cutting edge and deal with the mistreatment of native Americans, blacks and stories about unwed mothers and other adult themes. Instead, it became a show about three middle-aged men living with their father, and nothing will change. They couldn’t get married, have families, etc..
DocForbin 13 months ago
Roberts kind of got the last laugh when he played the title character on "Trapper John, M. D." in the late 1970s-early 1980s.
Wishing21 DocForbin 12 months ago
I disagree. Trapper John Md was not the least bit sophisticated. It was a terrible show built around a foolish idea
Andybandit 13 months ago
Wow, how sophisticated did he want the show. All you do is ride horses, go to town. Wear the same clothes. It was a western which lasted 8 more seasons after he left the show.
RedSamRackham Andybandit 13 months ago
* Yet Bonanza finally jumped the shark after death of Dan "Hoss" Blocker with the 2-part Wedding Of Little Joe season premiere in 1972. Joe gets pmarried and his wife gets pregnant. Alas it would've been great for Joe to have a wife and for Ben to have a grandchild. However part 2 of the episode ends with Joe's pregnant wife getting killed which was just 1 dead bride too many for even long-time fans of Bonanza and the ratings soon fizzled with the Adam, Joe, Candy & Jamie series being quickly cancelled. Perhaps at that point Pernell indeed had a last laugh.
Tommy7777 RedSamRackham 9 months ago
I would say the second half of the series those last years were not very good. Having Candy show up as sort of a replacement for Adam was the best idea they had. The show had a very narrow view of the characters, and there was no evolution of the show.
MrsPhilHarris 14 months ago
“I thought it would be a sophisticated show”? What? It was a western on tv in the 5Os, not Masterpiece Theatre. Geez.
justjeff 14 months ago
Pernell Roberts also made no bones about the fact that he was unhappy to be forced to wear a toupee as Adam. Roberts was one of the few actors who was comfortable with his baldness.

Fun fact: Of the four actors who were the leads in Bonanza, only Michael Landon didn't wear a hairpiece of any kind...
Load previous comments
RedSamRackham Pacificsun 13 months ago
* As for "sophisticated" 1970's KUG FU was considered an intellectual wesatern!
RedSamRackham justjeff 13 months ago
* Joe's hairstyle seemed to conform to 20th century looks of the times. In 1959-early 1960's Joe had a kind of Elvis look while in later 1960's/early 1970's he went for a more British rockstar style.
Pacificsun RedSamRackham 13 months ago
Good point and a welcomed perspective as a unique Series. Which shared Eastern Philosophy favoring non-violent, peaceful solutions. Used to watch it on H&I for a while, another good choice regarding Weigel Broadcasting.
Dina justjeff 13 months ago
I feel he was looking for ways to be insulted. Sometimes you have to enjoy things for what they are.
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?