September 12 - Color TV Gets a Bonanza!

Posted on September 12, 2018

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, there weren't 50-jillion different television channels. There weren't streaming services of any kind, there weren't even humble ways to record a TV show, and if you go back far enough, there wasn't even color on TV!

Cue the gasps! But it's all true. 

On this date in 1959, the first regularly scheduled program in color premiered. It was the cowboy family show Bonanza

The show was set in Nevada, near beautiful Lake Tahoe (which is located on the border of California and Nevada). I wonder how many people decided to visit Lake Tahoe because of those beautiful full-color shots being displayed in their living rooms?

Guess what? When Bonanza first appeared, it got okay ratings. There were basically only three television stations then, and Bonanza usually ended up in the middle slot for its audience share. But it was expensive to make, and the NBC folks considered cancelling it.

But they didn't - because RCA owned NBC, and RCA was trying to sell color TV sets. And having a well-crafted show airing in color REALLY helped convince people to buy them! (I mean, why buy a color set if all the shows were shot in B&W?) 

So NBC kept Bonanza in the lineup, and it started to get more and more popular. It turned out to be the second longest western show ever, and one of the top-10 longest running live-action TV shows, AND one of the top-50 greatest shows of all time!! Bonanza ran for 14 seasons!

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