makes Little House on the Prairie a cut above the standard,
forgettable "family drama" is, on the one hand, its
interesting historical setting and likable
characters, and on the other hand, its willingness to let the lives
of the characters develop and change over the course of the show.
Sure, it's pretty sentimental stuff... but it's reasonably well done
sentimental stuff that manages to be a "family show"
without condescending to either adult or child viewers.
Season 5 opens on a somber note, as most of the inhabitants of Walnut
Grove, their livelihoods vanishing because of the big-business
tactics of the railroads, pack up and prepare to set off for new
pastures. The two-part "As Long as We're Together" follows
the Ingalls as they head off to make a living in the big city, where
Mary is teaching at a school for the blind. The economic struggles of
the family and their decision to move on is an accurate portrayal of
life for the 19th century pioneers, and captures the general themes
of Laura Ingalls Wilder's books even though the specific stories are
not based directly on her work. Season 5 manages to make some good
use out of the change in location, with "The Winoka Warriors"
and "The Man Inside" both set in the city, until rather
inevitably we get a return to Walnut Grove in "There's No Place
In addition to the Ingalls family, we see more of several recurring
characters, including Adam, who cements his place in the family in
"The Wedding," and of course the Olesons. A new friend of
the family is introduced in the opening episode and continues to
appear in later stories: this is the orphan boy Albert, who provides
a welcome companion-in-adventure for Laura, who remains the most
lively and entertaining character in the family.
the episodes are purely stand-alone. Some are purely fun stories,
such as "The Lake Kezia Monster" in which Laura and Albert
conspire to invent a local monster to help a friend, while quite a
few are "message" episodes that tackle the topic of bigotry
from several angles, in episodes like "The Craftsman" and
"Barn Burner." And, of course, we get the standard
assortment of episodes dealing with friends of the Ingalls, who
conveniently appear in just one episode and then are never heard of
again. But for fans who enjoy seeing the "life story" of
the Ingalls, there are several episodes here that mark significant
milestones in the pioneer family's life: the aforementioned "The
Wedding" as well as "The Sound of Children," both
dealing with Mary. Rather oddly, the season ends not with an episode
dealing with the family directly, but with the sappy and forgettable
"The Odyssey," in which the Ingalls family helps a dying
boy get his wish to see the ocean. In any case, though, fans will
enjoy this set of episodes.
House on the Prairie: The Complete Fifth Season is packaged in
the same style as the earlier seasons, with the six discs in a
cardboard fold-out piece which fits into a glossy paperboard
slipcase. All 21 episodes from the show's 1978-1979 season are
included. The episodes are Region 0 (all region) and NTSC format.
I found the transfer quality of the Season 5 episodes to be rather
disappointing, barely squeaking by with an average mark for image
quality when the age of the prints is taken into consideration. The
image is very soft, as it is in the earlier seasons, so
longer-distance shots are lacking in detail. Colors are not well
represented here: most of the episodes have a faded, grayish
appearance to them. Later in the season we do see some improvement,
but the colors never approach anything that could be called
"vibrant." The print quality appears to vary from episode
to episode; some are very clean, while others display quite a few
Overall, the episodes are watchable but they aren't the pristine
transfers that fans may have hoped for.
The Dolby 2.0 soundtrack falls below what I'd consider an acceptable
mark here. The dialogue is not handled well: at normal volume levels
it has a muffled quality to it on many occasions, and a harshness
creeps into the sound whenever the actors raise their voices. The
music sounds reasonably good, though it's a bit overly loud in the
In the special features department, Season 5 offers more of interest
than the earlier seasons. We get two interviews that were filmed on
the occasion of Little House's 30th anniversary: a 10-minute piece
with Dabbs Greer (Rev. Alden) on Disc 1 and a 12-minute one with
Alison Arngrim (Nellie Oleson) on Disc 3. It's interesting to hear
the actors reflecting back on their experiences with the show after
the passage of quite a lot of time. Disc 6 also contains a
multiple-choice trivia quiz about the events of Season 5.
House on the Prairie offers a respectable package of
family-friendly episodes, in the positive sense of the word: these
are stories that will be enjoyed by adults partly for their nostalgia
value and partly for their warm and sentimental stories, and by
children for the adventures of the child characters in an interesting
setting. While the transfer for Season 5 could certainly be better,
it's watchable; I'll give this a "recommended."