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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Little House on the Prairie - The Complete Season 4
Little House on the Prairie - The Complete Season 4
Tango // G // February 17, 2004 // Region 0
List Price: $49.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Holly E. Ordway | posted March 4, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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The movie

Little 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 the prairie."

There 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 3's episodes, "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.

The DVD

Little 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).

Video

The 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.

Audio

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.

Extras

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 conveniently skipped.

Final thoughts

Little 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.

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