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Case Number 05018

Buy Little House On The Prairie: The Complete Fifth Season at Amazon

Little House On The Prairie: The Complete Fifth Season

Goldhil Home Media // 1979 // 1230 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Bill Treadway (Retired) // August 20th, 2004

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All Rise...

Judge Bill Treadway's deep affection for this wholesome example of Americana does not make him a girly-man. Or so he tells us.

Editor's Note

Our reviews of The Girls Of Little House On The Prairie: Prairie Friends (published January 22nd, 2009), Little House on the Prairie: Season One (Blu-ray) (published April 20th, 2014), Little House on the Prairie: Season Two (Blu-ray) (published July 11th, 2014), Little House On The Prairie: The Complete Third Season (published February 19th, 2004), Little House On The Prairie: The Complete Fourth Season (published March 23rd, 2004), Little House On The Prairie: The Complete Sixth Season (published November 17th, 2004), Little House On The Prairie: The Complete Seventh Season (published March 30th, 2005), and Little House on the Prairie: The Complete Nine Season Set (published November 13th, 2011) are also available.

The Charge

To Walnut Grove and back!

Opening Statement

The fifth season of Little House on the Prairie, the show based on the series of nine books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, reinforces my opinion that it is among the greatest family programs ever made. As well as having a rich, genuine feel for the time period, it is a well-made show with great acting and writing and gorgeous scenery. There is also a deep sense of family unity and values that is rarely seen on contemporary television these days.

Goldhil Home Video has now issued the complete fifth season of Little House on the Prairie in a six-disc set.

Facts of the Case

When we last left the Ingalls family in Season Four, Charles (Michael Landon, Highway to Heaven) and Caroline (Karen Grassle, Wyatt Earp) had made the painful decision to send now-blind Mary (Melissa Sue Anderson, Happy Birthday to Me) to a school for the blind in far-away Winoka. After helping her settle in, Charles quickly formulates a plan: The Ingalls clan will resettle in Winoka and be close to Mary after all. His best friend, Jonathan Garvey (Merlin Olsen, Father Murphy), decides to make the move with his family as well.

The Evidence

More lighthearted episodes are featured than ever before in the fifth season of Little House on the Prairie, and I think this was an appropriate choice. Punctuating the more dramatic tone of the series with these lightly comic episodes gives us a greater sense of the actual life of this family. Laura Ingalls Wilder's novels often fluctuated between the tones of drama and comedy, and the fifth season of the series accurately captures the true feel of the novels by offering the same variations. Besides, where does it say that there are only serious days in the life cycle of the average American family? Every family experiences joy along with moments of doubt and sadness.

What sets Little House on the Prairie apart from other reality-based programming is the faithfulness that writer-codirector-producer-star Michael Landon and his creative team brought to their small-screen adaptation. As with most programs adapted from true events, the adaptors took some dramatic license. Thus, the show may not be accurate in terms of day-to-day events, but Landon and his creative team have remained faithful to the spirit of the original novels. What made the Laura Ingalls Wilder novels so memorable was the deep characterizations and feel for the period. Wilder wasn't as concerned with plot as she was with recreating what life was like on the frontier, and retaining that quality in the program is far more important than strict accuracy.

The acting in Season Five is even stronger than in any of the previous seasons. Michael Landon once again demonstrates his usual stoic strength and quiet dignity as Charles Ingalls. While he does not look like the real Charles Ingalls, he captures the tenderness and authority of the real-life man. The performance is so real, convincing, and true that it had me wishing Charles Ingalls was my father. Karen Grassle is fine as Caroline, playing the role with warmth and sweetness. Former NFL great Merlin Olsen has never been acclaimed for his acting abilities, but this is a shame, as the man actually was talented. He had a strong presence and charisma, as well as a gentleness that Landon managed to brilliantly tap into on screen. All those qualities are present in Olsen's work on Little House on the Prairie. After turning in an Emmy-nominated performance in the two-part Season Four finale, Anderson really comes onto her own in the fifth season. Despite playing a blind character, Anderson does not resort to the standard clichés many actors do. She plays the role with honesty and restraint, which allows the audience to really invest in her performance.

All 21 episodes from the fifth season of Little House on the Prairie have been compiled onto six discs. I have rated the episodes on a scale of zero to five stars.

• "As Long as We're Together: Part One"
The Ingalls family moves to Winoka to be closer to Mary, who now resides in the School for the Blind.
Rating: *****

• "As Long as We're Together: Part Two"
The Garveys and the Olesons also move to Winoka to be reunited with the Ingalls family.
Rating: *****

• "The Winoka Warriors"
Adam recruits a big blind student to become the quarterback for Albert's football team.
Rating: ****

• "The Man Inside"
An overweight man leaves home to avoid shaming his young daughter.
Rating: *****

• "There's No Place Like Home: Part One"
The Ingallses, the Garveys, and the Olesons decide to leave Winoka and return to Walnut Grove.
Rating: ****

• "There's No Place Like Home: Part Two"
Walnut Grove is a shambles, and Charles attempts to band the neighbors together to help restore it.
Rating: *****

• "Fagin"
Albert runs away after discovering Laura is jealous of his bonding with Charles.
Rating: ****1/2

• "Harriet's Happenings"
Harriet Oleson writes a gossip column filled with malicious lies and half-truths. It's up to Charles to take a stand.
Rating: ****1/2

• "The Wedding"
Adam (Linwood Boomer, who would go on to create the hit sitcom Malcolm in the Middle) asks Mary to marry him, but she has second thoughts.
Rating: ****

• "Men Will Be Boys"
Charles and Jonathan send Albert and Andrew to Sleepy Eye unaccompanied.
Rating: ***

• "The Cheaters"
Nellie Oleson tutors Andrew Garvey in the art of cheating.
Rating: ***1/2

• "Blind Journey: Part One"
Standish has bought the blind school from the Church and demands that the students and teachers vacate.
Rating: ****

• "Blind Journey: Part Two"
Charles and Joe Kagan (Moses Gunn, The Ninth Configuration) help the blind school relocate to Walnut Grove.
Rating: *****

• "The Godsister"
Carrie dreams up an imaginary friend because she feels ignored by the family.
Rating: ***1/2

• "The Craftsman"
Albert becomes an apprentice for an elderly Jewish artisan.
Rating: *****

• "Blind Man's Bluff"
A young boy feigns blindness in order to keep his battling parents together.
Rating: ****1/2

• "Dance with Me"
Laura and Albert help Toby Noe (Ray Bolger, The Wizard of Oz) romance a spinster (Eileen Heckart, Butterflies Are Free).
Rating: ****1/2

• "The Sound of Children"
Mary is expecting a child and helps Adam become close to his estranged father.
Rating: *****

• "The Lake Kezia Monster"
Mrs. Oleson purchases Kezia's land at a tax auction. Laura, Andrew, and Albert try to scare Mrs. Oleson away.
Rating: ****

• "Barn Burner"
Racist Larrabee is accused of burning Jonathan Garvey's barn down.
Rating: *****

• "The Enchanted Cottage"
Mary believes she may be regaining her sight after "seeing" light.
Rating: ****

• "Someone Please Love Me"
Charles helps a broken family heal a tragic wound.
Rating: *****

• "Mortal Mission"
Two ranchers sell tainted mutton to the people of Walnut Grove, resulting in an anthrax outbreak.
Rating: *****

• "The Odyssey"
Terminally ill Dylan wants to see the ocean with the aid of Laura and Albert.
Rating: ***1/2

Goldhil Home Media presents all 21 episodes in full-frame transfers. Although they offer a disclaimer regarding audio and video imperfections, they have done good work with the materials they had access to. All 21 episodes have been color corrected, with mixed results. Even with the extra care and color correction, some episodes still have a washed-out look. However, they are still vastly superior to the prints used for syndication on cable TV. Goldhil's restoration adds a sheen and clarity unseen in the syndication prints. Imperfections have been greatly reduced, with only some light grain and a few scratches and specks marring the image.

Audio is a simple Dolby Digital 2.0 mono. The uneven quality of the audio is most likely connected to whatever materials Goldhil had to work with. Some episodes sound stunningly rich and gorgeous, as new as the day the episodes premiered. Others have a harsh, tinny sound and muffled dialogue. Since these materials were apparently the best they had at the time this set was produced, I am inclined to forgive Goldhil for this.

Extras are an area that desperately needed improvement in previous seasons of Little House on the Prairie. The only extra a viewer could find on a previous Little House collection was a mediocre trivia track. The main problem with it was that not a whole lot was there. While I understand why each trivia track was confined to each particular season, the information they contained was thin and forgettable. Despite the reappearance of said trivia track, I am pleased to report that Goldhil has finally thrown the fans something meaty: two 15-minute video interviews! Dabbs Greer (who played Reverend Alden) and Alison Arngrim (who played Nellie Oleson) sit down with an unidentified interviewer for a look back at the series. These interviews are superb, loaded with fascinating trivia and insights that are truly unique. Despite this valuable addition, however, the absence of any commentary tracks is still a surprise. Many lesser series have received such treatment, so why not a popular, beloved series such as Little House on the Prairie? Also, a detailed retrospective documentary would be welcome, especially considering the longevity of the series, both commercially and quality-wise. Many of the cast members are still alive and willing to discuss their participation in the series. Why not capture their insights and provide a retrospective at the same time?

Closing Statement

The video interviews and the greatly improved picture are satisfying, and the program has stood the test of time. Die-hard Little House fans will savor these episodes. Casual fans will enjoy the return trip down memory lane. However, the subpar audio remains a serious issue, aging the series far more than it should. The lack of more substantial extras also bothers me, as this series deserves greater respect and effort. Still, despite this, I am recommending a purchase.

The Verdict

Goldhil Home Media has made some progress in the extras department, but there is still room for improvement. Probation is still levied, albeit a tad lighter than last season.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 89
Audio: 80
Extras: 30
Acting: 99
Story: 97
Judgment: 97

Perp Profile

Studio: Goldhil Home Media
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
• None
Running Time: 1230 Minutes
Release Year: 1979
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Drama
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• Interviews with Actors Dabbs Greer and Alison Arngrim
• Trivia Track


• IMDb

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