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    Little House on the Prairie: Season Two Blu-ray Review

    Blu-ray Lionsgate TV Reviews

    May 04 2014 01:43 PM | Matt Hough in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
    For those who loved the first season of the family dramedy Little House on the Prairie, the second season offers up more of the same elements that made the first season so popular. Filled with heartfelt messages of family love and loyalty overcoming the man-made and natural strife that is a part of daily living, Little House on the Prairie unashamedly wears its heart on its sleeve evoking an unusually high quota of tears and smiles as it tells its simple stories of life on the prairie more than a century ago.

    Title Info:

    • Studio: Lionsgate
    • Distributed By: N/A
    • Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
    • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
    • Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA
    • Subtitles: English SDH
    • Rating: Not Rated
    • Run Time: 17 Hr. 57 Min.
    • Package Includes: Blu-ray, UltraViolet
    • Case Type: keep case with leaves in a slipcover
    • Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
    • Region: A
    • Release Date: 05/06/2014
    • MSRP: $38.99

    The Production Rating: 3.5/5

    As before, Little House on the Prairie tells the story of the Ingalls family: father Charles (Michael Landon), mother Caroline (Karen Grassle), and daughters Laura (Melissa Gilbert), Mary (Melissa Sue Anderson), and Carrie (twins Lindsay and Sidney Greenbush). They reside in the village of Walnut Grove, Minnesota, where the kindly village doctor (Kevin Hagen), the local parson (Dabbs Greer), the pretty schoolmarm (Charlotte Stewart), the postmistress (Bonnie Bartlett), friendly mill owner (Karl Swenson), affable best friend for Charles Isaiah Edwards (Victor French who also directs a few episodes), and the agreeable owner of the general store (Richard Bull) with his haughty, insufferable wife (Katherine MacGregor) and their two spoiled, graceless children (Alison Arngrim, Jonathan Gilbert) also dwell. A few new faces dot the landscape this season including the new town banker Ebenezer Sprague (Ted Gehring) and three orphan Sanderson children (Radames Pera, Brian Part, Kyle Richards) adopted by the Edwards family when Isaiah marries postmistress Grace in the season’s moving two-part episode “Remember Me.”

    The stories offer simple day-to-day looks at the harsh but often satisfying life on the prairie of the 1870s punctuated by clean living and deeply-held religious faith. From plots involving a harsh replacement teacher for Miss Beadle, a returning soldier’s drug addiction, two more puppy love crushes in young Laura’s life, Mrs. Ingall’s wrestling with feelings of jealousy and abandonment when Charles spends time with a lovely widow, rival villages’ baseball game, a lovely story centered around America’s centennial celebration where our country’s positives are weighed against the negatives of paying taxes for the privilege of living here, and an atypical action-filled episode with the children on a runaway caboose, the stories offer undemanding conflicts that are always solved before the end of the episode. A few stories have more serious overtones this season offering each of the principal members of the Ingalls family with spotlight moments: Mary wrestles with poor eyesight and later with representing her school in a statewide mathematics competition, Laura makes friends with the town’s hermit (John Anderson) and later secretly pans for gold in the creek bed, Caroline contracts tetanus and almost loses her leg, and Charles faces money worries on several occasions being forced at one time to transport nitroglycerin in a rickety wagon over several miles for $100 and later after a tornado wipes out his entire corn crop actually selling the farm and deciding to move back to Wisconsin.

    This season, the cast is much more comfortable in their roles (star Michael Landon writes and/or directs a third of the season’s episodes), and there are far fewer cutesy moments with the camera simply focusing on the girls mugging at the camera than were present in season one. There are more famous guest stars this season, too: Patricia Neal, Jay C. Flippen, Parley Baer, Richard Basehart, Theodore Bikel, Lou Gossett, Richard Jaeckel, Mariette Hartley, Richard Mulligan, and Lurene Tuttle.

    Here are the twenty-two episodes found on the five Blu-ray discs in this set:

    1 – The Richest Man in Walnut Grove
    2 – Four Eyes
    3 – Ebenezer Sprague
    4 – In the Big Inning
    5 – Haunted House
    6 – The Spring Dance
    7 – Remember Me - Part 1
    8 – Remember Me - Part 2
    9 – The Campout
    10 – At the End of the Rainbow
    11 – The Gift
    12 – His Father’s Son
    13 – The Talking Machine
    14 – The Pride of Walnut Grove
    15 – A Matter of Faith
    16 – The Runaway Caboose
    17 – Troublemaker
    18 – The Long Road Home
    19 – For My Lady
    20 – Centennial
    21 – Soldier’s Return
    22 – Going Home

    Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA

    The program’s original 4:3 aspect ratio is faithfully maintained in these new 1080p transfers using the AVC codec. Sharpness throughout is stunningly crisp and features lots of details in clothes, faces, and hair without any age-related artifacts to mar the viewing experience. Color timing, however, varies from some episodes featuring a little bit of accelerated blue producing pinkish skin tones to others appearing a bit more natural (but there are fewer of these "blue tinged" incidents than in the first season box set). Black levels can be very impressive at their best. Each regular episode has been divided into 6 chapters.

    Audio Rating: 3/5

    The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono sound mix offers a sturdy equivalent to the sound quality from its era with perhaps a bit more impressive fidelity present in this new lossless encoding allowing the dialogue and David Rose’s lush background scoring to come through loudly and clearly. However, there is some low level hiss to be heard in quite a few episodes and problematic flutter is present in some of them along with occasional noise that sometimes intrudes into one’s enjoyment of the episode (“His Father’s Son,” in fact, which features a bear in its plot, is so noisy that one might think there’s a bear outside one’s home theater scratching to get in). There is some crackle and there are occasional pops which intrude on one’s listening enjoyment as well.

    Special Features: 1/5

    The Little House Phenomenon: Part Two – In the Beginning (15:59, HD): Trip Friendly, son of NBC executive at the time Ed Friendly, actors Melissa Gilbert and Dean Butler, and Michael Landon’s children Michael Jr. and Leslie discuss the series’ place in television history, Michael Landon’s commitment to the series, its cast and crew, and its lasting appeal.

    Ultraviolet: code sheet enclosed in the case.

    Overall Rating: 3.5/5

    Little House on the Prairie fell a bit out of viewers’ viewing habits during its second season, a drop in viewership drastic enough to force NBC to move it from Wednesday to Monday nights for its third season (once there, it took off in the ratings). Regardless of the numbers, the stories and warm character moments are as reliable as ever in this Blu-ray set of the second season which fans will likely eagerly snap up given its very reasonable sale price.

    Reviewed by: Matt Hough
    Support HTF when you buy this title:



    16 Comments

    Matt: Another great review. Many thanks!++

     

    You seem to indicate that the show got better, with the cast more comfortable in their roles, fewer "cutesy shots", and bigger guest stars. And yet your rating for the season as a whole (3.5) is lower than what you had for the first season (4.0). Any thoughts on that? I'm not at all trying to criticize, just seeing if you can maybe add a few words if you feel like it.

     

    I might be wrong, but here's my guess: The first season's rating might have been boosted by that really good pilot movie? Since the second season didn't have anything like that, maybe....?

     

    Thanks, Ben

    Photo
    moviebuff75
    May 04 2014 03:25 PM

    The Patricia Neal episodes are among the most memorable in the entire series. Can't wait for this set!

    Matt: Another great review. Many thanks!++

     

    You seem to indicate that the show got better, with the cast more comfortable in their roles, fewer "cutesy shots", and bigger guest stars. And yet your rating for the season as a whole (3.5) is lower than what you had for the first season (4.0). Any thoughts on that? I'm not at all trying to criticize, just seeing if you can maybe add a few words if you feel like it.

     

    I might be wrong, but here's my guess: The first season's rating might have been boosted by that really good pilot movie? Since the second season didn't have anything like that, maybe....?

     

    Thanks, Ben

     

    You're right, Ben. The actors are better, and since the first season was a hit, the producers seemed to have made a conscious effort to bring in more famous faces.

     

    But I did find some of the writing rather formulaic. For instance, it's made pretty clear in "For My Lady" that Charles' decision to keep what he was doing at the widow's house a secret from Caroline was going to lead to misunderstandings with his wife and children and town gossip about what was going on behind closed doors, and the show followed through on that formula in lock-step. A few of the stories this season set up their premises early and then delivered no surprises in their development, an admitted occupational hazard when producing a series with so many episodes each season. It's very hard to make every one original and loaded with surprise.

     

    And I have to say that the Olssens (apart from the father) were simply unbearable this season, and when the writers offered the crumb of an opportunity to humanize them a bit in "The Campout," it lasted for about five minutes of the episode, and then they returned to their cartoonish quasi-villainy.

      • benbess likes this

    The Patricia Neal episodes are among the most memorable in the entire series. Can't wait for this set!

     

    My favorite two episodes of the season, and Patricia Neal should have been nominated for a guest actress Emmy.

      • moviebuff75 likes this
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    Mr. Handley
    May 05 2014 04:48 AM

    Great review, Matt!  Looking forward to getting this.  I still can't believe the improvement of these new releases over the previous Imavision abominations.

    Great review, Matt!  Looking forward to getting this.  I still can't believe the improvement of these new releases over the previous Imavision abominations.

     

    And so inexpensive! I don't know how Lionsgate does it frankly.

      • Adam Gregorich and Suzanne.S like this

    ^^ Exactly. Almost 18 hours of quality Blu-ray entertainment for less than $20. Amazing.

      • benbess likes this
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    Mike Frezon
    May 10 2014 06:55 PM

    I just put in my first disc from season 2.

     

    The fidelity of the audio DOES seem even better than on season 1.

     

    But I was surprised by the opening theme attached to the first episode.  It completely got my attention as it was different than the theme used in season 1 (and all the times I've seen the show in syndication, I think).  Same theme...totally different arrangement.

     

    Not a deal breaker for me if it's some strange replacement.  Or maybe it is accurate and I'm misremembering. 

     

    Any thoughts?

    Photo
    Mike Frezon
    May 10 2014 07:43 PM

    I just finished the first ep. of season 2 (The Richest Man in Walnut Grove) and the closing theme is also different than what I'm used to.

    ^ Nothing more than a guess but maybe they re-recorded the theme when they originally made the second season and you're just used to the first season theme so the change sticks out to you more? The big question is was it the different version on the old S2 DVDs too?

    Photo
    Mike Frezon
    May 11 2014 12:07 PM

    The big question is was it the different version on the old S2 DVDs too?

     

    Good idea.  I'll have to check.

     

    I'll report back later.

    Photo
    bluelaughaminute
    May 11 2014 12:32 PM

    IIRC the theme is slightly adjusted for most seasons . But its not unknown for changes to be made when a series goes into syndication and they change the opening and / or closing credits to one more recognisable .

    Photo
    Mike Frezon
    May 11 2014 04:02 PM

    Okay.  Here is my report.

     

    We watched the 2nd episode of Season 2 on the new set tonight (Four Eyes) and it was the different arrangement for the opening and closing themes again.

     

    Remember, the Imavision DVDs only use the opening theme before the first episode of the four episodes contained on each disc.  On the first disc of the Season 2 DVDs, the opening theme is the same as we heard on the Season 1 Blu-ray set (the same one I have always been used to hearing).

     

    I still don't know however which version of the theme is right for season 2...but I just can't remember ever hearing the version used on the Season 2 Blu discs before.  But--who knows--maybe they were the ones used for the original broadcasts.

    Photo
    Mike Frezon
    May 11 2014 04:09 PM

    While I had the DVD set in the player, I decided to do an extremely crude side-by-side of the difference in quality between the DVD and Blu sets.

     

    This is not a "scientific" exercise.  I couldn't figure out how to get the settings on my player/display set so that the DVDs would display in the same way as the Blu discs.  This was extremely frustrating for me.

     

    So, don't judge the framing of the sets based on these images.  There is all kinds of stretching on the DVD images. 

     

    I think the only thing you CAN tell is the obvious, expected difference in quality.

     

    I took these images on my iPhone...inaccurately pointed at my 55" Panasonic Plasma set.

     

    DVD image first.  Blu image 2nd.

     

    gallery_286742_34_46333.jpg

     

    gallery_286742_34_17599.jpg

     

    gallery_286742_34_72619.jpg

     

    gallery_286742_34_14730.jpg

    ^^The Blu-ray experience can be like putting glasses on for the first time. (That would be a great tag line for the format).

    Only a 3.5 overall and production rating?  Absurd.