LittleHouse2coverGrade: B/B+
Entire family:  Yes
1975-76, 1080 min. (22 episodes), Color
Lionsgate
Not rated: Would be G
Aspect ratio: 1.33:1
Featured audio: DTS-HD MA 2.0
Includes: Blu-ray (5 discs), UV Copy
Bonus features: C-
Today Show reunion clip

My ‘tweenage daughter doesn’t like historical dramas, isn’t a fan of westerns, and loves fashion so much that it’s like fingernails-on-the-chalkboard to watch the Ingalls girls parade about in their dowdy homemade calico pioneer dresses and bonnets. But she liked Little House on the Prairie: Season 2 enough to want to keep watching one episode after the other, and to shelve it in our collection for future play.

This wholesome family TV series from the ‘70s still has broad appeal, as you can see from the clip of the cast reuniting on The Today Show (link above) to promote the release of the Blu-ray on Season 1 and now Season 2.

The first season was more the authentic pioneer experience, as Pa and Ma Ingalls (Michael Landon, Karen Grasse) moved their brood of three daughters from Wisconsin to Kansas and finally Minnesota. There were Indians and hardships of every kind, and the emphasis was on the family’s journey and settlement.

The popular series was based on the juvenile books by Laura Ingalls Wilder that told of her family’s adventures on the newly expanding American frontier—books like Little House in the Big Woods, Little House on the Prairie, On the Banks of Plum Creek, and By the Shores of Silver Lake. The TV series ran for nine seasons, but by Season 2 the plots were already shifting from pioneer-specific storylines to ones that viewers may have seen elsewhere and could actually identify with better.  

LittleHouse2screenThis season, oldest daughter Mary (Melissa Sue Anderson) has problems in school and struggles with the fact that she needs to wear glasses—especially when children make fun of her. In another episode it’s her responsibility, as school treasurer, to purchase a gift for Reverend Alden, and later in the season she becomes “The Pride of Walnut Grove” when she qualifies for a state mathematics competition.

Middle daughter Laura, the feisty one who would grow up to write all those Little House books, comes to her sister’s defense and punches haughty mean girl Nellie Olsen (Alison Arngrim, as a “frenemy” long before the term was coined) right in the mouth. She also enters a haunted house on a dare from Nellie, and the Ingalls and Olsen families have to get along with each other during a camping trip to gather leaves for a school assignment. This season Laura grapples with self-image after she’s not invited to a dance, she competes with Nellie for the affections of a boy, and she and a friend think they’ve discovered gold in a nearby creek.

This season Walnut Creek builds its first bank and the Little House bunch has to deal with a pioneer version of Scrooge, and tensions rise when the Walnut Grove baseball team underperforms. A widow asks Mr. Ingalls’ help finding caretakers for a widow’s children after she learns she’s dying, Mr. and Mrs. Edwards (Victor French, Bonnie Bartlett) experience problems with an adopted son, and beloved teacher Miss Beadle (Charlotte Stewart) faces the loss of her job. There’s some danger, as when Charles and the other men take on a job transporting dynamite and a tornado whips through Walnut Grove, but the emphasis this season is more on interpersonal relationships.

The series is well cast, intelligently written, well directed (by Landon), and beautifully filmed. Though there are plenty of melodramatic moments this season, by design, it’s still great family entertainment.

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