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'Bonanza': The Story Of The Lost Episodes

Bonanza: The Lost Episodes

Bonanza aired for 14 seasons and 431 episodes from 1959 to 1973. But what's the story with those "lost episodes" you might have heard of? Are they included in this usual 431-episode count? Are they truly lost, or can you watch them today? Here's everything to know about the lost episodes of Bonanza.

If you're a Bonanza fan, you may have heard of the "lost episodes" of the legendary Western TV show.

But what exactly does that mean? Are there more episodes of the "Cartwrights" hidden away somewhere, or lost forever? The answer is mainly no, but there's a chance you're less likely to have seen the so-called "lost episodes." Here's why and what the term means.

Bonanza: The Lost Episodes?

In 1973, when season 14 aired on NBC, the show arranged a syndication deal to air Bonanza on local and international TV networks. All the episodes from the first five seasons were included, but only a selection of the most popular episodes from seasons 6 through 14 went in the package.

The numbers broke down to 260 that were aired regularly to 171 that were seen less commonly on TV. The missing ones from the later seasons became known as the lost episodes. In the mid-1980s, television switched to digital masters of the original Bonanza episodes—which were shot on film—and it took years to restore the lost episodes for cable TV. Many had a "Lost Episodes" subtitle in the opening when they aired again.

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Bonanza: Lost Episodes - "Child," Season 10

According to history site Ponderosa Scenery, the show signed deals in the 1980s and '90s with various networks, some of which were highly conservative, and they rejected certain episodes with questionable content. This led to more episodes going unseen for some viewers.

How to watch Bonanza's lost episodes today

In all, the lost episodes story means, for certain viewers, around 40 percent of Bonanza episodes (all from seasons 6-14) were less likely to have been seen during the show's original syndication. No episodes were truly "lost."

As we entered the 21st century, networks even aired Bonanza with a "Lost Episodes" billing, showing the ones that aired less during the original run. INSP continues to air such a program today and you can see a list of the 171 episodes as compiled by Ponderosa Scenery.

For more little-known Bonanza facts, learn more about the TV movies and the original 14 seasons here.