Little House On The Prairie: Season Two

Little House On The Prairie: Season Two

***1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

The gentle, family-centred adventures of a pioneer family in the American Midwest, Little House On The Prairie won a slew of awards and remains very popular with its original fans. This transfer of the second series to DVD is not before time. The tapes on which the episodes were previously preserved had been gradually decaying, and the picture quality here is pretty bad, the more visibly so because the quality of people's viewing equipment has improved over the years. The result may not appeal to those who insist on usual DVD good quality, but if you're willing to set such concerns aside and concentrate on characters and story, there's plenty to enjoy.

Little House On The Prairie is based on the memoirs of Laura Ingalls Wilder, but very loosely so. This part of the story, which follows her life around the age of 10, has been adjusted to concentrate on those childhood concerns that will be most familiar to modern viewers. Thus, the hideous disease that blinded Laura's sister Mary has been replaced with a tale of gradually disintegrating vision and the trauma of having to wear glasses. A tornado, which devastated a community, now kills a token cow. This may help children to relate more closely to the notion of living in the past and for the older viewer, it provides a fascinating insight into America's relationship to its history.

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Poverty is interpreted as not being able to buy preferred foodstuffs - Laura actually says, at one point, "I'm not hungry", which would have been absurd in the context of her actual life. Everybody has shoes and clean clothes and we understand the Ingalls' struggle, primarily through conflict with the cartoonish Olsens, whose snobbery stands in for class difference. This fictional family, most of whose members behave like pantomime villains, will delight younger viewers. Though much of the focus has been shifted away from Laura herself, there's still a child's story here for them to identify with.

Despite the poor picture quality, there's still much to appreciate about the visuals in this series - it really stands out amongst contemporary work, due to the quality of its direction. Michael Landon's innovative camerawork and astute use of light enriches the film and does a great deal to substantiate the relationships between minor characters. His own appearance is somewhat bizarre, with his layered wavy hair and blousy shirts, making him look like a time traveller from the Seventies, while great attention has been paid to getting the details of other costumes and sets right.

Though the prairie is rather less of a wilderness than in most of Laura's accounts, there are still many beautiful landscapes to enjoy, contributing to the nostalgia, which many may feel. The stories are warm and homely, based around simply family values. Political issues raised in the books are discussed, but rather more moderately, leaving room for multiple points of view. The Ingalls' Christian values, however, are undiluted, which will appeal strongly to some viewers whilst making others rather uncomfortable. There is no room for different perspectives, but in staying true to the values of the time the series is able to explore more honestly the emotional challenges of frontier life.

With 24 episodes on a variety of topics, there's plenty for aficionados to enjoy and for new viewers to discover.

Reviewed on: 04 Apr 2006
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Little House On The Prairie: Season Two packshot
Complete second series about Laura Ingalls and her family.
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