21 TV stars who appeared as guests on 'Bonanza'
Most of the Enterprise and Gilligan's Island seemed to turn up at the Ponderosa.
When a television show pumps out 431 episodes over a span of 14 years, it's going to have an incredibly deep cast listing on IMDb. In a sense, Bonanza was the Law & Order of its time, in that it was a regular showcase for celebrity cameos, rising stars and steady-working character actors.
Because the Western could shift its tone from serious drama to gunfight action to heartwarming family yarns to comedy, Bonanza utilized a wide array guest stars. What other series could easily accommodate both Bob Barker and Charles Bronson? Or Doc Severinsen, Dabney Coleman and Dennis Hopper?
Between 1959 and 1973, Bonanza welcomed dozens of famous guest stars — too many to list in one article, frankly. We're going to focus on TV stars — specifically, familiar faces of MeTV.
1. Leonard Nimoy
In "The Ape," Nimoy feels the brunt of the titular brute's forearm. Where's that Vulcan nerve pinch when you need it? A handful of Star Trek folk popped up on the Ponderosa, as we shall see.
2. Ricardo Montalban
Before he was "Khaaaaaan!" Montalban played a Native American named Matsou in "Day of Reckoning." The future Fantasy Island lead talked about his time on Bonanza with the Archive of American Television, explaining how the role forced him to lose his temper.
3. DeForest Kelley
Spock and Khan were there, so why not Bones? Kelley popped up a few times on Bonanza, and was particularly mesmerizing as cavalry captain Moss Johnson in "The Honor of Cochise."
4. Sally Kellerman
Kellerman can be spotted on several MeTV series, memorably in the early Trek outing "Where No Man Has Gone Before." In "A Dollar's Worth of Trouble" she comes on to Hoss. Of course, she would go on to play Hot Lips in the big screen M*A*S*H film.
5. Jonathan Harris
Moving on to a different corner of space, here is Jonathan Harris, the playful fiend at the heart of Lost in Space. Dr. Smith took a more famous role on Bonanza. He was Charles Dickens in "A Passion for Justice"!
6. Adam West
Holy resume, Batman! The soon-to-be Caped Crusader appeared in season two's "The Bride." The superhero was not the only Batman actor to get dusty on Bonanza. Many villains also showed up!
7. Burgess Meredith
Meredith look remarkably similar to the Penguin in "Six Black Horses." All he needs is the fake nose.
8. Cesar Romero
Romero refused to shave the mustache underneath his Joker makeup on Batman. Here, however, he could let his fabulous whiskers roam free as Guido Borelli in "The Deadliest Game."
9. John Astin
Penguin and Joker joined the fun, so why not the Riddler? Astin, best known as Gomez Addams, looks a bit like Captain Ahab playing the title character in "Abner Willoughby's Return."
10. Alan Hale, Jr.
We shift our focus from Batman to Gilligan's Island. Here is the Skipper himself, Alan Hale, playing Swede Lundberg in the early episode "The Saga of Annie O'Toole." He looks hot under the collar. Perhaps he misses his little buddy?
11. Tina Louise
Yep, it's Ginger! The fabulous redhead turns up in "Desperate Passage." Or perhaps you're more of a Mary Ann fan? No worries, she's up next…
12. Dawn Wells
"The Way Station" was the first of two appearances for Wells. She was not the only beloved TV star to turn up at the stagecoach way station, either…
13. Robert Vaughn
Appearing alongside Dawn Wells was Napoleon Solo himself, Robert Vaughn. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. made a perfect counter to Mary Ann.
14. Robert Culp
Culp was no stranger to Westerns, as he had starred in Trackdown a few years earlier. He charmed, strumming his guitar, in "Broken Ballad." He would go on to take the lead in I Spy four years later.
15. Ron Howard
Between The Andy Griffith Show and Happy Days, Howard found plenty of work, including two spots on Bonanza. Here he is pictured in the latter, "The Initiation," in which he played the leader of a club. Unfortunately, one of the other teens dies during an initiation, and Howard's character takes the blame. Not very Opie-like!
16. Ted Knight
The brilliant Mary Tyler Moore co-star also turned up on the Ponderosa twice. You can see him here in his second appearance, playing a Sheriff in "Peace Officer."
17. Buddy Ebsen
The Beverly Hillbillies patriarch also took two turns on Bonanza, near the very beginning and very end. We see him here in "The Sisters" in 1959. He looked quite different when he turned up again in 1972!
18. Mike Farrell
Yep, the M*A*S*H veteran played another doctor of a different era in the final season story "The Hidden Enemy."
19. Sebastian Cabot
Before he was an English gentleman on Family Affair, Cabot played a Spanish dandy in "The Spanish Grant."
20. Robert Pine
Sgt. Getraer of CHiPs looks rather Harrison Ford–y here in "The Running Man."
21. William Schallert
We end up back at Star Trek, in a way. Schallert, best known as the father on The Patty Duke Show, appeared in the classic episode "The Trouble with Tribbles," alongside all those fuzzballs. Here he is in the appropriately titled "Look to the Stars."
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