Blu-ray
Recommended
3 stars
Overall Grade
3 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
4 Stars
HD Video Quality
4.5 Stars
HD Audio Quality
3.5 Stars
Supplements
1 Stars
High-Def Extras
0 Stars
Bottom Line
Recommended

Little House on the Prairie: Season Three

Street Date:
September 9th, 2014
Reviewed by:
Review Date: 1
October 2nd, 2014
Movie Release Year:
1976
Studio:
Lionsgate
Length:
1080 Minutes
Release Country
United States

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

In the third season of 'Little House on the Prairie', the cast and crew seeemd to fall into a smooth rhythm, where everyone felt more comfortable in their character's shoes and the general direction of the show. The show's writers and producers even caught on to what their audiences wanted, and gave them more in the way of some slap stick comedy and much needed comeuppance for some of the characters. There were only twenty one episodes in this season, although a couple of the episodes were double the length, and interestingly enough, this third season was greenlit even though the show had fallen in the rankings.

But the big gimmick with 'Little House on the Prairie' is its familiarity and family values. It has a certain quality that makes you feel that you're with your loving family with the fire burning in the fireplace and a warm apple pie cooling for your consumption. It's an unrelenting sweet show that never crosses into the pretentious territory, but instead tugs at the heart strings in a warm and inviting way. It teaches life lessons that are still relevant today, even if some of the ways are outdated.

And just like seasons ONE and TWO, there is really nothing at stake, meaning there is no sense of real danger or anything imminent with any of the characters that isn't wrapped up nicely with a pretty bow by episode's end with the exception of a couple of things, but that's the unique charm of 'Little House on the Prairie'. It's an aspect that is very rare these days as almost all television shows involved vampires, monsters, explosions, terrorists, zombies, or some sort of big crime scheme. The only other show I can think of that had none of these big conflicts, but was still an excellent show with great writing is 'Gilmore Girls'.

But this third season has a lot of great moments, which includes the season premiere that guest stars Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash. Johnny and June play a couple who travel to Walnut Grove and end up taking care of the sick pastor that had an accident. Cash takes over pastor duties, but also is planning on taking on all the money from the collection plates and heading off, but he has a change of heart when he sees the overall goodness of Walnut Grove and its people. Reminds me a little of Smurf Village in that if anyone evil came into the village to sabotage the Smurfs, their overall genuine happiness would convert the evil doers to decent people.

This type of thing happens a lot in this series. Another overall story arc centers on Laura's (Melissa Gilbert) horse, Bunny. Bunny is entered into a race, taken for a little bit by the arch nemesis of the series, Nellie (Alison Arngrim), and is even injured. But Charles Ingalls (Michael Landon) and his family always make things right and stay loyal to each other. Another key moment in the show is when Charles's mother dies, prompting him to get his father to move in with the family for a little while, which causes some strife between the family. But key lessons in family loyalty are taught here. Children being trapped in giant holes, a bad winter storm, a bad contagious fever, and a mine collapse are all things that bring conflict to Walnut Grove and this third season as well.

But one thing that stuck out to me this season was the Ingalls family tackling the racial prejudice issue when a half Indian - half white kid comes to town and attends school. The kid is bullied as the Ingalls family sticks by his side. In another episode, a very young Todd Bridges (yes, that Todd Bridges) comes to stay with the Ingalls and goes to school with the children. It's all handled as light as a feather and with ease and grace, all the while teaching those heart tugging lessons on family and love.

The last episode of the season almost had you guessing if they were having the Ingalls family move out west to mine for gold, but after seeing the violence it brought to people, they ended up agreeing to move back to Walnut Grove, because they were rich enough with family. And that's the key ingredient to the show. This third season has more or less the same type of conflict as the previous two seasons, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

'Little House on the Prairie: Season 3' comes with an impressive 1080p HD transfer  presented in 1.33:1 aspect ratio. If you've seen seasons one and two on Blu-ray, you can expect the same great quality here with the third season. The image looks amazing, considering this show is almost forty-years old. The restoration job here is top notch and has taken all the elements of this show and turned them into a pristine looking picture. Detail looks sharp where closeups show wrinkles, dirt, and makeup blemishes on the actor's faces.

Individual hairs on the livestock and actor's faces are very noticeable as well. The colors are all well balanced and saturated, giving this show a new yet organic look. The blues, greens, and browns simply pop off screen. There is a nice layer of grain throughout the series, although some of the grain fluctuates from light to heavy from time to time. And since this is the third season, the filmmakers tried several camera tricks such as first person shots, where the image looks softer than it should. Other than that, this video presentation looks very good without any big compression issues to speak of, leaving this image with top marks.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

This release comes with a lossless DTS-HD 2.0 mono mix and it sounds wonderful. Just like the first two seasons,  I wish this had the option for a 5.1 audio mix so that we could fully immerse ourselves in the 1800's prairie life, but I digress. What's great about this audio track is that it all sounds very natural and realistic. The sound effects and ambient noises of nature all come through very nicely and make us feel we are back in this time period.

The dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to follow, and free of any instances of hissing, cracks, and pops. The sound effects range from the sweet gentle sounds of the old west to the thunderous noises of a big storm to a stampede of horses, which sounds great and loud. The score is always good and never drowns out any of the dialogue or sound effects. I wouldn't expect the walls to rattle here or any big explosions to make you jump out of your seat, but this audio mix does the perfect job for this type of show.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

The Little House Phenomenon Part Three: Casting Walnut Grove (HD, 19 Mins.) - Here is the third part in the single serving bonus features that you have come to expect with each season. I have a suspicion that at the end of these Blu-ray releases, they will release the entire documentary of these extras in one outing. But until then, we will have to settle for a small segment at a time. This particular time around, we look at the casting of the characters where we see some interviews with the cast back when they were shooting the show as well as some auditions and screen tests.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

There are no HD exclusives. 

Final Thoughts

Season three of 'Little House on the Prairie' found it's smooth groove and feels open, relaxed and straight to the point. It all seems redundant to a certain degree, but then again, this show is not pretentious or rude. It knows what it wants to be and it accomplishes it very well. The video and audio presentations are excellent, and the one extra that is a small segment in a large documentary is fun to watch. Again, this third seasons comes recommended if you're a fan of the show.

Technical Specs

  • 5-Disc Blu-ray Set + Digital Copy

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p MPEG-4 AVC

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 1.33:1

Audio Formats

  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
  • French Dolby Digital 2.0
  • Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0

Subtitles/Captions

  • English

Supplements

  • "The Little House Phenomenon: Part Three - Casting Walnut Grove" Documentary

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