"Bonanza Breakup" Illuminated


This Internet thing is amazing. It may really catch on someday.

A few days ago I made some goofy comments, as is my penchant, {say it with the French pronunciation}, about a certain 1960s-era cover of “16” magazine {16-mag-cover.jpg}.

One of the headlines was “Landon vs Parnell: Scoop on the Big Bonanza Breakup,” and I made some smarty-trousers conjecture about “creative differences.”

To my delight, that post quickly generated a comment from someone who clearly has an astonishing depth and breadth of knowledge regarding Pernell Roberts’ departure from Bonanza.

“Debby” wrote:

Thought you might want to know that Pernell Roberts departure from Bonanza had nothing to do with Michael Landon or any of the other actors on the show.

Mr. Roberts’ dissatisfaction with Bonanza had to do with the overall compromises in production quality that come with doing a weekly television series (lower budgets, lack of rehearsal time because of tight filming schedules per episode, etc.), his general boredom with playing the same character over a long period of time, the basic premise of the show (three grown men still living under their father’s roof and constantly checking with their Pa about almost every decision) that had quickly become absurd in his eyes, and the fact that the filming schedule for Bonanza greatly impeded his ability to accept other job offers particularly work in theater productions. Pernell Roberts asked to be released from his contract early and the Bonanza executive producer, David Dortort, and NBC refused his request so he completed his contractual obligations and then left the show.

All of these issues were raised publicly (and obviously discussed in alot greater detail) by Pernell Roberts in a number of magazine articles including a very lengthy article about Bonanza, which included interviews with all four stars of the show and the show’s executive producer, in the December 1, 1964 issue of Look magazine.

Pernell Roberts’ disdain for working on a weekly television series did not change over the years even though he did return to television in Trapper John M.D. years later. He was very blunt about it … he said he did the new series to make sure he had enough money saved for his retirement.

Wow! That’s some serious passion and knowledge about a 42-year-old event. And I geniunely do appreciate having an old headline illuminated. But it makes me wonder of “Debby” is Mr. Roberts’ agent.

All the best to him in any event.