The Ponderosa

Jim 2000s

Aired: Premiered Sept. 9, 2001 – Cancelled May, 2002 PAX The Ponderosa

DAD: Ben Cartwright / Widower x 3 (Daniel Hugh Kelly)

DAD’S JOB: Rancher

KIDS: Adam (Matt Carmody)(21), Hoss (Drew Powell)(18), Little Joe (Jared Daperis)(12), Carlos (adopted, previously-unknown son)(Fernando Carrillo).

WHERE’S MOM?: Dead, Dead, and Dead

STAND-IN “MOM”: Hop Sing(Gareth Yuen)/Chef

A TV Single Dad benchmark series returns. Picking up the storyline before the original NBC series, The Ponderosa emulates the template of the new Star Trek series, Enterprise, filling in the prequel info on a line of new stories.

The volume of e-mail I received about this show was astounding. Legions of Bonanza fans had been asking for details on the series, and wrote in with various conjectures as to the plotlines. reported that actor Casey Biggs was signed for the role of Ben, based on a stock photo from the Pax TV website. That casting info, though, was premature.

None other than Daniel Hugh Kelly (he of the almost-TV Single Dad show I Married Dora and co-star – with the legendary Brian Keith – of Hardcastle & McCormick) landed the role of the very archetype of western TV Single Dads: Ben Cartwright. Other than a remake of “My Three Sons,” I couldn’t imagine a more-difficult TV Single Dad role for an actor to re-create.

This show tackled PILES of unanswered questions, such as “How did Ben hook up with Hop Sing?” and “Why would you name a kid ‘Hoss?'” With squads of VCR-wielding fans of the original series watching closely, the writers needed a detailed story bible handy.

Biggest question: would the series work? It had a chance: the head writer/producer was Beth Sullivan, who managed to come up with Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.

After watching the premiere episode, the series did appear to show promise of having legs. The production values were at least equal to the quality of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, and the cast did live up to their original NBC counterparts. Unlike most series, I thought it a safe bet that The Ponderosa would last more than a single season.

Boy, was I wrong.

Despite the massive investment in filming a series halfway around the world, the show never cleared 97th place in the Neilsens. Doom ensued.

Here’s PAX TV’s happy spin on the series:

It’s been more than 40 years since we first met the Cartwright Family in Bonanza. Since then, the relationship between America’s families and the Cartwright clan has become one of the most enduring in entertainment history. PAX TV’s all-new weekly series, The Ponderosa, picks up the story of the Cartwrights in 1849, and follows the family through the early years when they first settled on a small piece of scrub land in the wilds of the Nevada Territory. United by blood as they fight to make a life for themselves are 35 year old widower Ben and his young sons, 21 year old Adam, 17 year old Hoss, and 12 year old Little Joe. The Ponderosa is the prequel that lets us share the experiences that made the Cartwrights the best-loved heroes of the American West.

UPDATE 16 May 2002: Set fire to the map, boys – – The Ponderosa was dropped by PAX. So long for now, Cartwrights!