Bonanza was, in my personal opinion, the best television series of all time. The characters of Ben, Hoss and Little Joe Cartwright (and for the first six years, Adam) were part of American culture for the 14 years of the shows run. For both the fans of its day and those who became fans watching reruns, it continues to be loved and watched in reruns on various channels, particularly since the advent of satelite TV.
The patriarch of the family, Ben Cartwright, is the epitome of what a father should be. He was always there when his sons needed him, whether to save them from some danger, comfort them, give advise or hand out discipline. I particularly admire the frequent references Ben makes to the Bible, as well as his praying on many occasions. It was also apparent that he made sure his family were regular church-goers.
Adam, the oldest son, was only on the show for the first 6 years of its run. There are many Bonanza fans, because of their love of this character, that prefer the first 6 season episodes for this reason. Adam was college educated (A degree in architecture)and an intellectual, but still every bit the cowboy. He could herd and rope cattle, bust a bronc, win a gun fight or get into a bar room brawl, but still read a little poetry on the ride back to the ranch.
Hoss was the 6 foot 4, 300 pound animal lover of the sons. He was shy around women and a little backward on the intellectual side of things, but definitely the one you wanted around in either a fist fight or to whelp a litter of puppies. He was very tender-hearted, but fiercely loyal to his family. Anyone who was out to hurt one of the other Cartwright's, their cook, Hop Sing or any of their friends, would have Hoss to contend with.
Joseph Francis Cartwright, known as "Little Joe", was the youngest son. He had a quick temper, but also could tear up in an emotional moment. He was very handsome and quite the ladies man, often getting him into trouble. Joe also was very athletic and was often seen busting broncs, doing somersaults in the course of a bar fight or shoot out and was the Cartwright most often seen jumping down from and climbing great heights.
All of the Cartwrights were very steadfast in their loyalty and devotion to each other and the high moral standards set by Ben. The series usually had episodes that were morality plays, which was very innovative for the period when the series began its run (1959). This series is definitely a classic for westerns, family shows and television drama.