Pernell Roberts felt he was above TV

Roberts was not a good fit for Bonanza.

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In the 21st century, it's clear that television has grown more prestigious. Each year, more award-winning stage and film actors transition over to the tube for wonderful, artistically satisfying productions. Our expectations as viewers have risen with the medium. Viewers now have access to rich content libraries filled with vibrant stories, so the new ones better be good too.

This wasn't always the case, though. For much of its existence, television has been derided as a cheaper form of entertainment. The criticism has come from within the industry and without, and the voices have always been as loud as they are wrong. There has always been worthwhile entertainment, and the criticisms frequently speak more to the critic than to the medium.

One such detractor was actor Pernell Roberts, who was happy to profit off of his time on Bonanza. From 1959-1965, Roberts played the eldest Cartwright son, Adam. However, during that time, Roberts grew disillusioned, not just with Bonanza but with television as a whole.

Rumors during the '64 television season abounded regarding the trajectory of Roberts' character Adam Cartwright. Would he be married off? Was he going to be shot and killed? How would producers write the unhappy actor off of the show? Instead, Roberts fulfilled his contractual obligations but did not extend the agreement any further than the agreed-upon six years. So, Adam Cartwright was explained as having simply "moved away."

In July of 1965, The San Francisco Examiner pressed Pernell Roberts for further details regarding his departure from Bonanza.

"The reason I quit? Essentially, it was a question of human needs. I wasn't happy on Bonanza. A person should be free to choose his own happiness," said Roberts. 

This is all fair enough and would've been a reasonable, excusable explanation for his exit. However, Roberts revealed further truths in the same interview that highlighted not just his tribulations with Bonanza, but also with TV as a whole.

At first, Roberts is reserved, refusing to go into further detail regarding the possibility of salacious gossip surrounding Adam Cartwright's "moving away." First, the Examiner probed the actor for the specifics about a rumored conflict with studio executives.

"I really don't want to talk about it," said Roberts, shooting down the line of inquiry. "I could criticize but I won't, it's all in the past now." 

Instead, Roberts turned the focus of his ire toward the entire concept of television rather than levying his criticisms at any one particular entity. 

"Television isn't doing the job it should," said Roberts. "It could be used so much more for educating and informing. The industry should rid itself of its conformity and dispense with these silly game shows for adults." 

"It takes courage to rebel against the money and the power attitude of television and the dictates of advertisers. But television perpetuates the wrong idea of morality that exists, that money is behind everything." 

For all of his criticism, Pernell Roberts returned to television to star in Trapper John, M.D.

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31 Comments

Snickers 8 months ago
For someone who was disappointed with T.V he didn't have any problem taking the money on Trapper John M.D.
Cougar90 8 months ago
He said he should have left under better circumstances than the way he did. He also took out "Welcome To Our Fans" ads in the Bonanza magazine, "Bonanza Gold". A change of heart? I really hope he did.
Mark 9 months ago
Well, Lorne Greene had a similar background, but he knew what side his bread was buttered on and decided to stay on the show. He tried to tell Pernell not to be a damn fool and take the boatload of money offered him, but he refused.

Years later, Roberts complained about the quality of Trapper John, M.D.'s scripts. One of his friends said that 'he's just upset because they won't let him bring Chekhov to City Hospital'.
McGillahooala 10 months ago
He was too important for TV and yet that is where he was destined to stay.
ncadams27 10 months ago
Pernell Roberts wasn’t above my TV. I had a clock.
327053 ncadams27 10 months ago
🤣🤣🤣
Deleted 10 months ago
This comment has been removed.
Moody 10 months ago
I'll bet if you do a Google search you'll find the answer to your question.
Mannixishot 10 months ago
They tried at first...said Adam was traveling. I think over time he ceased to exist completely. I remember a scene in one of the later Bonanza episodes and you saw Joe and Hoss' names carved into a tree. It just got to a point where they just stopped mentioning him and that scene with the tree is what leads me to think he ceased to exist completely.
dougandandyfan 10 months ago
On The Andy Griffith Show Ed Sawyer played by William Lanteau arrived in Mayberry and the Mayberry residents were scared of him because he knew Everyone's name and the citizens of Mayberry definitely had never seen Ed Sawyer before he arrived in
Mayberry. In the epilogue.of the Ed Sawyer episode episode Ed Sawyer was getting ready to get a haircut and Andy Taylor said this :
"WELL ED NOW THAT You are going to live with us then you might as well look like us "which indicates and means that Ed Sawyer DID IN FACT MOVE TO MAYBERRY . HOWEVER AFTSR ED Sawyer appeared in that one episode The TV viewers of The Andy Griffith Show never saw Ed Sawyer again.
Since Ed Sawyer did in fact move to Mayberry then where eas ED
SAWYER HIDING IN MAYBERRY FOR THE ENTIRE 8 SEASONS OF THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW AND 3 HEARS OF MAYBERRY RFD?Lucy
Mathews who already lived in
Mayberry and Ed Sawyer both
Disappeared into thin air with oexplanagion .On My Favorite Martian Mrs. Brown (Pamela Britton )had a daughter Angela Brown (Ann
Marshall) who lived in her mother's apartment and after ONLY 3 episodes only NGEKA BROWN VAVISHED FROM MY FAVORITE MARTIAN WITH NO EXPLANATION.
On Petticoat Junction and Green Acres Hooterville Residents
Herbie Bates ?Don Washbrook)
Junior Hocker (Russell Horton)
Newt Kiley (Kay E. Kuter) and Roy Trendell (Robert Foulk ) all Disappeared from MAYBERRY with no explanation . On Gomer Pyle USMC Cpl Nick Cuccinelli played by Tommy Leonetti and Cpl Boyle played by Roy Stuart ) and Sgt.
Whipple (Buck Young) all vanished from Camp Henderson and Gomer Pyle USMC with no explanation.
Maybe Adam Cartwright moved to
Arizona and became a ranch hand for JR Ewing (Larry Hagman) on
the TV show Dallas.
dougandandyfan 9 months ago
https://youtu.be/6F_nyptM_ZI
Coldnorth 8 months ago
You must have an ulcer from all that worrying about different characters.
MrsPhilHarris 10 months ago
I admit I skimmed this, but what I recall in a past article he rather thought that a tv western in the 1950s would be highbrow.
JohnHardesty 10 months ago
Pernell Roberts was very intelligent, he studied Shakespeare, and he would've been better off staying at Bonanza, where his exposure was widespread, even though he did resurrect his acting career later.
Addendum: I love MeTV, they get me, I love these old shows, they bring back so many treasured times. Thank you, MeTV.
Coldnorth JohnHardesty 8 months ago
IMO he had a voice made for Shakespeare
LoveMETV22 10 months ago
" Roberts was not a good fit for Bonanza."
Or
"Bonanza was not a good fit for Roberts."
Guess it's all perspective, opinion, how one wishes to view it.
2AMtv 10 months ago
It's easy to criticize something that provided your first fortune in life to yourself.
Mannixishot 10 months ago
Said it before and I'll say it again. I like Pernell Roberts and Adam is my favorite Cartwright but for something like this my respect goes towards Michael Landon. Whether or not you're a fan of Michael's or not, he wanted to do more than just act and he truly studied different things and got it down enough that you can watch different Bonanza episodes or see the other series Michael did and see writing credits, directing, producing credits. He chose to do instead of just sitting back and complaining and it seems like Pernell just sat back and complained during the years he was unhappy.
Andybandit 10 months ago
He was my favorite on Bonanza, too. I never saw Trapper John M.D.
teire 10 months ago
Still my favorite Cartwright, especially in the comedic episodes.
justjeff 10 months ago
...and then... after numerous "guest appearances" on various TV shows, Roberts let some of his ego deflate and he came back to TV as "Trapper John, M.D."...

As the old saying goes, money talks... and "you-know-what" walks...
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Coldnorth justjeff 8 months ago
I hope you don’t think I would say anything negative to you or about you. You have always brightened my day with your puns and your fonts. You know what they say about opinions. If you prefer I don’t comment on your comments i will honor that. I can honestly say I’ve never seen any post you’ve made offensive or wrong. And I hope I’ve never offended you. You do make beautiful fonts. Sorry about my comment about what walks. Just thought you would laugh and just not answer. Now I know better. Today I got a comment from someone I’ve never heard of before. I guess they don’t like my sense of humor. So I will just not comment for a while. Can’t please everyone.
justjeff Coldnorth 8 months ago
Please don't censor yourself because of that other person's comment. I *never* take offense at your replies, for I know you are being lighthearted and good-natured. Thank you for your kind compliments, and I welcome your retorts. You keep me on my toes, and stir me to try and find the right veiled comment, pun, joke, trivia or side remark to keep things lively. I would feel bad if you *didn't* reply to my posts.

I can't say I'd feel the same for the two individuals who had to criticize our posts. 99% of the folks on here love to have some good natured fun. The remaining 1% are sitting with their thumbs stuck in a *very* uncomfortable place, and they like to be "big shots" by ripping what others write.

There *are* always a few rogue posts we've all seen where the person is so obnoxious they MUST be reported to Weigel, but those are the ones with the hateful racist, sexist, or politicized remarks.

The rest of us are (hopefully) old enough and mature enough to understand the kidding, and when they don't, they ask for clarification. I really don't think the majority of the posters get offended by the silly banter...so PLEASE... keep with it!
Coldnorth justjeff 8 months ago
Thank you for your reply. I’m glad you like my silliness. Life is so sad and stressful a laugh or smile can make a huge difference in your day. As for the negative ones, it’s easy to be a jerk behind a keyboard. Your pep talk made me feel better and your fonts are beautiful. Have a good night, I feel better now and I hope you do too
justjeff Coldnorth 8 months ago
Thank you as well!
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