Little House on the Prairie is the epitome of the good-natured
family show, and while it serves up a generous helping of
sentimentality, the attention to character and story means that the
series has weathered the passing of more than twenty years with both
its dignity and its entertainment value intact. As we see in Season
6, Little House continues to be truly a family show: one that
both the adults and the children can enjoy together. And while Little
House certainly addresses "important issues" it manages
to do so in a natural, non-preachy manner: the Ingalls aren't perfect
(that's part of their charm) but they're certainly solid role models
for both younger viewers and their parents.
Season 6 is a pivotal season in the Little House saga. One of
the appealing aspects of the series has been how the characters grow
and change over time; even though it's a fundamentally episodic show,
it doesn't always have a "reset button" in every episode.
5 saw a lot of changes for Mary, who married Adam and moved away
to teach with him at the school for the blind, Season 6 has some
important moments in store for Laura.
Most notably, Season 6 sees the arrival of Almanzo Wilder (Dean
Butler), who is fated to be Laura's husband. (That's not a spoiler
even if you've never read the original Little House books, as
Laura provides a foreshadowing voiceover in a key episode in this
season). The two-part season opener, "Back to School,"
provides a nice introduction to the character of Almanzo, as well as
Laura's immediate fascination with him. As the season proceeds, we
see that Laura is moving out of girlhood into young womanhood, and is
struggling with her own feelings as well as her parents'
expectations; Pa Ingalls in particular is far from ready to give up
Modern viewers may be surprised to see romance treated so seriously
for a sixteen-year-old character, but in this case Little House
is actually being true to the historical setting (and Laura Ingalls
Wilder's own biography). Young people in the 19th century were
expected to start life as adults much earlier than they do today,
especially out on the frontier, and as we saw with Mary in an earlier
season, that often included marriage at what we'd consider a very
young age. When it comes to handling the shift from "little
girl" to "young woman" for Laura, a character we've
known and loved as a mischievous little kid, Season 6 has its work
cut out for it; I was actually pleasantly surprised at how well and
believably it's handled. By the end of the season, with "Sweet
Sixteen" and "He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not," Laura has
taken on a new dimension as a character.
The stand-alone episodes offer the usual variety of stories centered
around the Ingalls family and the people of Walnut Grove, but in a
nice change of pace from earlier seasons, a number of the stories
actually affect recurring characters, rather than "neighbor of
the week whom we never see again." For instance, in "The
Family Tree" we see young Albert become a full part of the
Ingalls family. "The Return of Mr. Edwards" has a fairly
self-explanatory title, although the episode is no joyful reunion,
but is surprisingly dark. Another notable episode in Season 6 is the
tragic two-part episode "May We Make Them Proud."
While it's not an earth-shattering omission, I have to report that
Season 6 is actually missing an episode: "The Little House
Years." This three-part episode was a retrospective of the
Ingalls family's favorite memories, shared as they gather for
Thanksgiving, and originally aired on Nov. 15, 1979; it seems to have
been shown in addition to the normal slate of 21 episodes. In any
case, even though it's not exactly "original" material,
it's disappointing that it's not included on the DVD set for fans of
Little House on the Prairie: Season 6 is a 6-DVD set, with the
discs packaged in a long cardboard fold-out case which fits inside a
glossy paperboard slipcase.
Unfortunately, while the content is good, the transfer quality leaves
a lot to be desired. The image is uneven in terms of quality: primary
colors like the bright blue sky or Laura's red dress look bright and
vivid, but most of the rest of the image looks faded and has a
slightly brownish tint. The contrast is too heavy in dark scenes, and
the picture is quite soft, so there's little detail to be seen in
longer-distance shots. On top of that, the print isn't in very good
condition: there are many speckles and flecks of dirt in the image,
and several instances of shimmering distortion effects. Watchable?
Yes, but a serious disappointment even accounting for the age of the
The Dolby 2.0 soundtrack is also sub-par. The overall sound is flat
and slightly muffled, and there's a distinctly tinny quality to the
sound. Whenever voices get raised – as in so many of the scenes
involving Mrs. Oleson – it's noticeably harsh-sounding.
bonus material continues to get more substantial with each season's
release. In Season 6, fans are treated to several interesting special
features. On Disc 1, we get an audio commentary from Alison Arngrim
(who played Nellie Oleson) for "Back to School: Part 2."
Even though it was recorded so long after the fact, Arngrim still has
quite a few interesting and amusing anecdotes to share about the
series and that episode. We also get three substantial and reasonably
interesting interviews: a 20-minute interview with Dean Butler
(Almanzo Wilder) on Disc 2, an 11-minute interview with Alison
Arngrim on Disc 4, and an 8-minute interview with Dabbs Greer
(Reverend Alden) on Disc 5. Lastly, Disc 6 has the inevitable trivia
though the transfer quality leaves a lot to be desired, Little
House on the Prairie: Season 6 still gets a "recommended"
rating, as it's really a great example of truly family-friendly
entertainment. Sure, it's on the sentimental side, but it's all done
in such good spirits that nobody minds a little sappiness. After all,
it's really the characters who make the series, and with Laura
getting more of the spotlight in this season, Season 6 is especially