Parnell Roberts has died. He was a huge star - TV star, that is - of the '60s. Last surviving "Cartwright,"  and "Trapper  John, MD" - which effectively made him star of the last spin-off of "M*A*SH."

 I've posted the CBS obit below, and below that, a quick trip down memory lane - two solid clips from his indelible series, in his key roles.

 A little less-known fact about Roberts is that he had a pretty sizeable Broadway career too, and it even pre-dated his TV one, which began in 1958, and ended in '97, with a brief role (OK, cameo), in "Diagnosis Murder." (It began with a stage play entitled "Tonight
in Samarkand" in 1955.)

 His passing will possibly prompt some observations that "they sure don't make 'em like that anymore," and if you're talking about his biggest role, Adam Cartwright, you can rest assured that they sure don't. It was one of those roles that seemed to define a whole series, and in a way, even an entire genre - the primetime western, when there was such a thing.


 He left "B" after the '65 season, just as it began a run as TV's top show; huge success lasted a couple seasons after that, and though wildly popular as "Bonanza" was, it could never propel NBC past ridiculously dominant CBS. Reasons for Roberts departure after all these years remain obscure, but a good obit in today's Times pretty much suggests he thought the show was trite and that he could do much better. If so, not quite a good career move - "Bonanza" only got more popular. That show finally ebbed with the western in the early '70s. "T John," by the way, was never a big hit - yeah, a top 30 show and certainly by today's more meagre standards a giant show, but when you look at the clip, you can get a quick glimpse of just how different TV a mere twenty years ago was. The word "prehistoric" seems appropriate...
 

  Roberts, 81, died of cancer Sunday at his Malibu home,
his wife, Eleanor Criswell, told the Los Angeles Times.
Born in Waycross, Ga., Roberts served in the Marines
for two years and began performing in stage shows in
the early 1950s.

He got his big break in 1959 when he won the role of
Adam Cartwright, the hot-headed eldest son of Ben
Cartwright in "Bonanza." The role earned him a wide
following of fans -- who were distraught when Roberts
decided to leave the show after six years.

After "Bonanza," he appeared mostly in musicals and
even released an album, but he continued to show up in
tough-guy guest roles on shows including "The Big
Valley," "Gunsmoke," "Night Gallery," "The Virginian,"
"Mission: Impossible" and "Ironside."

In 1979, he landed the lead in the drama "Trapper John,
M.D.," a sequel of sorts to "M..A..S..H," reviving the
character played by Wayne Rogers on the classic Korean
War-era comedy. He continued in that role for all seven
years of the show's run.

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