Chris Hicks: 'Little House on the Prairie' is restored for new DVD, Blu-ray release
"Little House on the Prairie," the 1970s TV series, still has a strong fan base, which explains why a new DVD and Blu-ray release restores episodes both in terms of picture and sound and in episode length.
“Little House on the Prairie: Season One” (Lionsgate, 1974-75, six discs, $29.98, DVD and digital versions, 22 episodes, two-hour pilot, featurette, screen test of Michael Landon and Melissa Gilbert). Vintage TV programs released on home video are sometimes missing scenes because they are not culled from original network versions but rather from edited syndicated reruns (which require trims to allow for a couple of minutes more in commercial time). This isn’t always the case, of course, but when it happens, eagle-eyed fans complain. Loudly.
“Little House on the Prairie,” about a Wisconsin family settling in rugged 1870s Minnesota, is one of those shows that has been issued in various DVD season collections with scenes missing, and apparently someone in charge has been paying attention to customer complaints. The result is this set, labeled “Deluxe Remastered Edition,” which restores each episode to its original broadcast length and impressively upgrades picture and sound. (This review reflects the DVD set, but logic suggests the Blu-ray is even sharper.)
Based on the autobiographical “novels” by Laura Ingalls Wilder, the show was actor/producer and frequent writer/director Michael Landon’s baby, and he stars as patriarch Charles Ingalls. Karen Grassle is his wife Caroline, and many episodes focus on their four daughters, in particular Laura (Melissa Gilbert), from whose point of view (and narration) the stories flow, and her older sister Mary (Melissa Sue Anderson). (Season 2 is due in May.)
A bit old-fashioned now, perhaps even corny, but still an entertaining family show offering timeless life lessons. (Also on Blu-ray, $38.99)
“Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXIX” (Shout!, 1990-98, four discs, $59.97, four episodes, new interviews (one with Mamie Van Doren), original version of “The Pumaman,” new introductions, featurettes, movie trailers; four mini-posters). Four more episodes of a spaceman and his robots making snarky comments about bad vintage flicks: the 1957 rock ’n’ roll prison melodrama “Untamed Youth,” starring Van Doren; the self-explanatory “Hercules and the Captive Women” (1961); “The Thing That Couldn’t Die” (1958) about the living decapitated head of a 16th century devil worshipper; and the 1980 sci-fi “Pumaman,” about a paleontologist who discovers he is descended from aliens.
“William & Mary: The Complete Collection” (Acorn, 2003-05, six discs, $59.99, 18 episodes, featurette). Fans of “Doc Martin” will enjoy seeing Martin Clunes as a completely different character in this hourlong, three-season comedy-drama about the rocky romance of a widowed undertaker (Clunes) and a no-nonsense midwife (Julie Graham).
“Mapp & Lucia: The Complete Collection” (Acorn, 1985-86, four discs, $59.99, 10 episodes, text biography). Elizabeth Mapp (Prunella Scales, best known as the wife on “Fawlty Towers”) and Emmeline “Lucia” Lucas (Geraldine McEwan, the BBC’s 2004 Miss Marple) are rivals in the social arenas of good taste and propriety in the seaside village of Tilling in this satirical sitcom based on the books by E.F. Benson.
“Continuum: Season Two” (Universal/Syfy/Blu-ray, 2013, three discs, $49.98, 13 episodes, audio commentaries, featurettes). Canadian sci-fi series about a cop (Rachel Nichols) from 2077 stranded in modern-day Vancouver while in pursuit of terrorists who are trying to change the course of history for reasons that seem obvious at first but become more complicated over the course of the series. Owes something to “Life on Mars” but carves its own path and benefits from its charismatic star. (Also on DVD, $44.98)
“Veep: The Complete Second Season” (HBO/Blu-ray, 2013, two discs, $49.99, Blu-ray and digital versions, 10 episodes, deleted scenes, audio commentaries). Julia Louis-Dreyfus is excellent in this satirical half-hour sitcom as the U.S. vice president, and the show is adept at playing off of real-life incidents in the news. But as you should expect from HBO, there is non-stop foul language. (Also on DVD, $39.98)
“Key & Peele: Seasons 1 + 2” (Comedy Central/Paramount, 2012, four discs, $24.99, 18 episodes, audio commentaries, featurettes, outtakes). Half-hour episodes of sketch comedy starring the title team, Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele (“MADtv”). Both filmed and live skits, with many situations reflecting race. Also with plenty of coarse language.
"Dragons: Defenders of Berk, Part 1” (Dreamworks/Fox, 2013, two discs, $19.99, 10 episodes, featurettes). Second series (after “Riders of Berk”) spun off of the “How to Train Your Dragon” theatrical film (whose sequel will arrive in June) with original voice actors from the movie, including Jay Baruchel and America Ferrera.
“My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: A Dash of Awesome” (Hasbro/Shout! Kids, 2011-14, $14.93, five episodes, sing-along). Animated episodes from Seasons 2 and 4 have Rainbow Dash and friends exploring Equestria.
“Tickety Toc: Spring Chicks Time” (Anchor Bay, 2013, $14.98, five episodes, coloring pages). More adventures with twins Tommy and Tallulah in this South Korean animated show.
Chris Hicks is the author of "Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind? A Parent’s Guide to Movie Ratings."
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