10 hilarious Hoss episodes of Bonanza
He competed in an eating contest, tried to play the violin and took flight in more than one episode.
Hoss Cartwright was the heart and soul of Bonanza. Actor Dan Blocker embodied Hoss perfectly, both in size and personality. Blocker’s kind nature and comic timing made it into many Bonanza episodes and were a big part of why the classic Western shot to the top of the ratings. Though Hoss and Dan didn’t quite match up intellectually, Blocker was a scholar and former teacher, there was plenty of overlap in other ways between actor and character.
Here are ten episodes that showcase Hoss’ funny side. Do you have a favorite episode about the beloved middle Cartwright brother?
1. Maestro Hoss
Hoss was as kind as he was brawny, but he was never the sharpest tool in the Ponderosa shed — and sometimes his kindness got him into trouble. The season eight episode “Maestro Hoss” opens with the middle Cartwright brother helping out fortuneteller Madam Marova, played by Zsa Zsa Gabor. Marova convinces Hoss that he has the potential to be a great musician, and even squeezes $178.50 out of him after giving him a violin. Most of the episode’s humor comes from the fact that Hoss is a downright vile virtuoso, to the point that animals retreat back into their holes at the sound of his screeching notes.
2. Hoss and the Leprechauns
This famous Bonanza episode stands out as one of the oddest in the entire series. Hoss believes there are leprechauns on the Ponderosa, complete with green suits and gold. There are many funny scenes of Hoss trying to convince his family of what he thought he saw, plus Dan Blocker showing off his physical comedy abilities. Though there’s logical explanation for it all in the end, this isn’t the only Bonanza episode to deal with fantastical or supernatural elements.
3. The Flapjack Contest
Though sometimes Bonanza mixed humor with danger, this episode is just plain fun. It revolves around a Virginia City contest to see who can eat the most flapjacks and win the big $500 prize. Joe is eager to win the cash and enlists Hoss as a contestant. Hoss is happy to do it until he finds out that Joe has put him on a strict diet of “rabbit food” and water (no beer!) to get ready for the big day.
4. Three Brides for Hoss
Just a few months before she became nurse Christine Chapel (and the voice of the Enterprise computer) in Star Trek, Majel Barret stopped by the Ponderosa as a hillbilly mail-order bride for Hoss. The problem is, Hoss has no idea who she or the French mademoiselle Yvette Devereaux or the proper Bostonian Libby Spencefield are — even though they’ve all shown up to marry him! This episode has as many laughs as it does accents and plays up Hoss’ utter confusion to hilarious effect.
5. The Ponderosa Birdman
Comedian Ed Wynn guest stars in this episode as an inventor who has a dream to make humans fly. Hoss, being his naturally helpful and somewhat gullible self, volunteers to be the guinea pig testing out the new contraption. Unfortunately, the mechanism the professor cooks up is less of a flying machine and more just giant bird wings tied to Hoss’ arms. Hoss does manage to get airborne though, thanks to some strong winds and a boost from Little Joe.
6. Any Friend of Walter’s
This classic Bonanza episode is a fan-favorite and was so popular it inspired a sequel installment “Walter and the Outlaws” the very next season. The title character in both is a shaggy, sleepy dog. Despite his lethargic disposition, Walter has a special kind of intuition, at least according to his old prospector owner, Obie. Hoss stumbles upon the scraggly pair while taking shelter in their cabin from three bickering outlaws. It’s a great episode that only a Western like Bonanza could pull off.
7. The Pure Truth
This episode introduces itself as a story with a lighthearted tone right off the bat. Ben, Adam and Joe lament the fact that Hoss’ unusually rambunctious bout of spring fever is about to hit. It isn’t long before Hoss accidentally injures Sheriff Coffee and decides to go in his place to pick up a prisoner. Problem is, Hoss travels to the wrong town and is promptly accused of robbing a bank. He escapes to the camp of an eccentric prospector played by 1930s movie star Glenda Farrell. While not as goofy as other stories, this episode has plenty of fun moments and classic Hoss antics.
8. The Gunmen
This first season episode puts the doppelganger trope to wild but hilarious use. Little Joe and Hoss arrive in a small town that just so happens to be terrorized by two outlaws who look exactly like them. Dan Blocker sports a beard as Big Jack Slade and Michael Landon plays the mustachioed Little Jim Slade. Everyone in town confuses the Cartwright brothers for the gunslingers which leads to many funny miscommunications. Grandma Walton herself Ellen Corby also guest stars as a woman who reads a long, drawn-out poem about Hoss and Joe’s dire fate at the gallows when they’re mistakenly captured.
9. The Frenchman
After Hoss pushes a rude Frenchman into a water trough, the indignant monsieur challenges him to a fencing duel. This leads to a funny scene where Adam tries to teach Hoss the art of proper sword fighting, but Hoss scoffs at the “silly looking toothpicks.” The episode gets weirder when it turns out the Frenchman thinks he is the reincarnation of medieval poet Francois Villon.
10. The Dream Rider
This Bonanza episode stars prolific movie and TV character actor Sidney Blackmer as an Army major who comes to the Ponderosa with a newfangled hydrogen balloon. While more serious than most of the episodes on this list, the story does provide a few laughs when Hoss hangs on to the balloon too long and begins to float upward. Not even Little Joe dangling from his legs can bring him down. Hoss also lets the balloon fly with Joe asleep in the basket, a rare time when Hoss gets to pull a fast one on his conniving younger brother. The episode is also one of eight Bonanza installments directed by future auteur filmmaker Robert Altman.