Tragedy on 'Bonanza'

How 'Bonanza' Explained Dan Blocker's Death On The Show

How Bonanza Explained Death Of "Hoss" Actor Dan Blocker

Bonanza remains one of TV's all-time great Western series. It ran for 14 seasons, but it was sadly the death of one of the show's biggest stars—Dan Blocker—that led to its cancellation in 1972. This was how Bonanza responded to Blocker's death and said goodbye to "Hoss Cartwright."

Bonanza made history across 14 seasons of great Western television. 

However, the series also made TV history in an unfortunate way when actor Dan Blocker died in 1972. He'd starred as "Hoss Cartwright" from the beginning, and his death came just after Bonanza's season 13 finale. Here's how the series handled it.

How Bonanza explained death of "Hoss" actor Dan Blocker

Bonanza chose not to recast "Hoss" after Blocker's death. Instead, the show implied that the character had also died — a then-unprecedented move for a TV show.

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Bonanza: The Tragic Death Of "Hoss" Actor Dan Blocker

Of course, "Hoss" did not die on-screen, but when Bonanza returned for season 14, his screen family — of stars like Lorne Greene and Michael Landon — made references to "Hoss" no longer being with them.

In "Forever," the season premiere, the suddenly-absent "Hoss" is referred to in past tense, and "Ben" alludes to knowing how it feels to "lose a son."

"Little Joe" and his father also share an emotional moment over a late wife and unborn son of "Ben" — a scene that many believe was meant to be about grieving the loss of Blocker, according to Mental Floss.

Bonanza movie revealed how "Hoss Cartwright" died

Though some Bonanza fans don't care for the later TV movies, they do give a more direct explanation of the death of "Hoss."

In The Next Generation, it's revealed that "Hoss" actually drowned while trying to save someone. His son "Josh" also appears in the film and visits his father's grave (seen below).

The movie's clear explanation for the death of "Hoss" didn't come until 1988, however. Several sources suggest that the original series was the first on television to address the death of a character when it did so in 1972, just a few months after Blocker's death.

Bonanza lasted just that one final season without Blocker, who died of a pulmonary embolus at the age of 43.