House on the Prairie: Season 4 continues to offer viewers a
charming, sweet show that does a fine job of providing entertainment
for the whole family, adults as well as children. Based on the
beloved series of books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little House on
the Prairie focuses on the lives of the Ingalls family as they
try to make a living in the small farming town of Walnut Grove.
The Season 4 set includes all 22 episodes of the long-running show's
fourth season, which originally aired from 1977-1978. Overall, it's
the same enjoyable assortment of stories as in the earlier seasons,
with a blend of serious drama and light-hearted humor thrown in as
well. The episodes do a nice job of blending the material that will
appeal more to the adult viewers with the parts that will be enjoyed
more by the younger set. For instance, in "To Run and Hide,"
the adults will find her self-diagnosis of "the vapors" to
be very amusing, while the kids will laugh at her exaggerated
behavior when she overdoes it with her new patent medicine.
The stories cover a varied ground, with different members of the
Ingalls family taking center stage in different episodes. There are
quite a few well-done episodes here, over the course of the season.
"Times of Change" takes Charles and Mary to the big city of
Chicago, which is quite a contrast to their accustomed rural
surroundings, and to their ideas of what's right and wrong as well.
"The Inheritance" is a particularly well-crafted and
enjoyable story: Charles Ingalls inherit the estate of a long-lost
relative, and the whole town starts to treat them differently... and
even for the common sense and caution of the Ingalls family, there
are many pitfalls ahead. The two-part season finale, "I'll Be
Waving as You Drive Away" also sets some major events in motion,
and offers an interesting and engaging story along the way.
The show does have its share of anachronisms, mainly due to the
infusion of 1970s attitudes: for instance, Pa Ingalls' comment that
"you should always get your eyes checked once a year." But
these are kept reasonably well in check, and overall we do get a
reasonably accurate picture of late 19th century life out "on
are also a few nice touches of continuity even though Little House
is a predominately episodic show. Looking back to the previous
season, the Ingalls' house reflects the events of the past season,
including the new stove that was the highlight of one of Season
"Times of Change" involves Mary's fiance from Season 3, and
"To Run and Hide" focuses on the recurring character of Dr.
Baker. Looking forward, several episodes in Season 4 make significant
changes in the main cast of characters and their situation. It's nice
to see some development in the show, as this helps keep the story
fresh; it's also faithful to the spirit of the original books, in
which the Ingalls family moves a number of times and faces a variety
of new challenges as their circumstances change.
House on the Prairie: Season 4 is a six-DVD set, packaged in a
long cardboard fold-out holder which is, unfortunately, very annoying
to handle. This fits into a glossy paper slipcase. Conveniently, the
episode titles and air dates are printed on the back of the fold-out
case. The DVDs are NTSC and will play on all regions (1 through 6).
episodes for Little House on the Prairie: Season 4 are
presented in their original television aspect ratio of 1.33:1. This
footage, from 1977-1978, shows its age, even though the DVD packaging
indicates that it has been restored. The image is often quite blurry,
especially in longer-distance shots; there are also occasional
distortions in the image. Colors look somewhat muted throughout the
show, even when we ought to be seeing brighter primary colors; the
image has a rather faded look to it. Overall it gets an average mark,
taking its age into consideration.
The Dolby 2.0 soundtrack for Season 4 falls below average here, and
below the quality level of Season 3 as well. The overall sound tends
to be rather flat and occasionally muffled-sounding, but the main
problem is the fluctuation in volume levels. Both music and dialogue
occasionally fall very quiet for a moment or two before returning to
normal, which is a rather disconcerting effect.
The only special feature is a set of text "behind the scenes"
notes on Disc 3. These offer snippets of information about the making
of seven different episodes; viewers can then choose to view the
scene that's mentioned in the text. The seven episodes mentioned here
are "Castoffs," "The Wolves," "The High Cost
of Being Right," "The Fighter," "Here Come the
Brides," "Freedom Flight," and "I'll Be Waving as
You Drive Away.
The menus are straightforward and easy to navigate, and in each
episode, the credits are a separate chapter, so they can be
House on the Prairie: Season 4 continues to offer enjoyable
family entertainment, with stories that are sweet and charming
without being too sappy. The image and sound quality isn't as good as
I'd like, but it's still watchable. I'll give this set a
"recommended" overall; anyone who has enjoyed other
episodes of Little House, or has enjoyed the books, will find
this set enjoyable to watch.