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"The Golden Girls" The Complete Fourth Season DVD Review

Buy The Golden Girls: The Complete Fourth Season from Amazon.com The Golden Girls: Season Four (1988-89)
Show & DVD Details

Regular Director: Terry Hughes

Regular Cast: Beatrice Arthur (Dorothy Zbornak), Betty White (Rose Nylund), Rue McClanahan (Blanche Devereaux), Estelle Getty (Sophia Petrillo)

Recurring Characters: Herb Edelman (Stan Zbornak), Sid Melton (Salvadore)

Notable Guest Stars: Henry Darrow (Fidel Santiago), Frances Bay (Claire), John Harkins (Ham Lushbough), Jack Gilford (Max Weinstock), Quentin Tarantino (Elvis Impersonator), Herta Ware (Ida), Monte Markham (Clayton), Gwen E. Davis (Mildred), Tony Steedman (Jasper DeKimmel), Richard Herd (Ernie), John Fielder (Eddie), Julio Iglesias (Himself), Freddie Jackson (Sam), Bob Hope (Himself), Douglas Seale (Seymore), Chick Venerra (Pepe), Anne Francis (Trudy), Inga Swenson (Holly), Ellen Dow (Lillian), Vito Scotti (Dominic), Nan Martin (Philomena), Flo DiRe (Gina)

Running Time: 624 Minutes (26 episodes) / Rating: TV-PG
1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Broadcast Ratio) / Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired; Closed Captioned
DVD Release Date: February 14, 2006
Season 4 Airdates: October 8, 1988 - May 13, 1989
Three single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9); Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Six-sided fold-out Digipak with cardboard slipcover

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Page 1: Show Discussion, Disc 1, and Disc 2
Page 2: Disc 3, Video/Audio, Bonus Features, Menus & Packaging, and Closing Thoughts

By Aaron Wallace

By 1988, "The Golden Girls" was a force to be reckoned with. The hit Touchstone sitcom that centered around four Miami senior citizen roommates took a dynamic viewing audience by surprise with its unique premise and fresh brand of comedy and its fourth season brought it to the #5 spot in the ratings. While the series was better in its earlier years than most are in their entirety, they provided a few weaknesses to highlight and critique. Starting with the fourth season, that was no longer the case.

With three years' worth of well-received episodes under their belts, the writing team seems to have fully realized the series' strengths in the late '80s. The characters most shine when they function together within a single story that allows them to go a little over the top and the fourth season sees a shift in focus to stories that involve all four central protagonists at the same time, rather than following each on their own tangent.

Dorothy serves up some dinner. The girls wind up in a homeless shelter in "Brother, Can You Spare That Jacket?".

Previously, the character of Sophia (Estelle Getty) had taken a back seat to her three companions. Given the drastic age difference -- she in her 80s while daughter and other roommates were around their 50s -- the distinction made some sense. Sophia's lightning-fast wit, tell-it-like-it-is advice, and tales of wisdom from her days in the hard-knocks island of Sicily had made her an audience favorite, though, and the folks behind the show were wise to catch on. The fourth season truly becomes Sophia's season. As is aforementioned, the characters usually work together in these more recent episodes, but the
stage for conflict is often set by the eldest of the home and, in the event that a single character becomes the focus, that character is usually Sophia. Whether it's because her character is especially apt at melding the four or whether it's due simply to her profound likability, this choice is to the show's benefit.

Of course, the others are not to be dismissed. Bea Arthur brings her A-game to the fourth season as Dorothy and she's given more opportunity to impress in the comical love-hate exchanges between her ex-husband, Stan (Herb Edelman). Rose's (Betty White) home-grown anecdotes of St. Olaf oddities soar to more absurd (and consequently, more amusing) heights. And as Blanche Deveraux, Rue McClanahan gives her most convincing performances yet. The final needed improvements to the show's occasional dramatic moment are at last achieved. Succinctly executed episodes of adventure offer fresh solicitations of hearty and bountiful laughter in the fourth year, in place of the heavy reliance on flashbacks and clip shows that comprised a substantial portion of the third season (though these are still around).

While the sitcom grew more consistent in its entertainment value in each of its earlier years, and while a number of my personal favorites still stem from some of the best of other seasons, the 1988-1989 season is the first to be free of complaints. Unfortunately, that can't yet be said for Buena Vista's presentation of The Complete Fourth Season on DVD, which disappoints in most of the same ways that their first three season sets did.

A star () denotes my ten favorite episodes from the season.

Some of Bea Arthur's best moments aren't even verbal. Sophia tends to a young patient. Blanche, the southern belle

Disc 1

1. Yes, We Have No Havanas (24:19) (Originally aired October 8, 1988)
Blanche and Sophia both court the same man while Rose reveals that she never graduated high school, which for her was run by a Nazi propaganda campaign. She enrolls in Dorothy's night class to finally earn a diploma.

2. The Days and Nights of Sophia Petrillo (24:08) (Originally aired October 22, 1988)
Dorothy worries over her mother's dull life while, in actuality, Sophia runs from place to place on a very hectic schedule, all unbeknownst to her roommates.

3. The One That Got Away (24:19) (Originally aired October 29, 1988)
Blanche is determined to finally land the one man that ever rejected her while Rose tries to convince Dorothy that she's spotted a UFO outside their home.

4. Yokel Hero (23:19) (Originally aired November 5, 1988)
Rose learns that she's eligible for St. Olaf's most prestigious award, but little does she know that gets the prize because of some exaggeration on her roomates' part. This episode features a brief cross-over with the "Golden Girls" spin-off series, "Empty Nest", as Richard Mulligan appears as his Dr. Harry Weston character.

Sophia cools herself down. You don't get to see that TV very often. The incomparable Betty White as Rose Nylund

5. Bang the Drum, Stanley (24:05) (Originally aired November 12, 1988)
Sophia winds up with a minor injury at a baseball game, which Stan convinces her to play up for a lawsuit's sake.

6. Sophia's Wedding (Part I & Part II) (48:28) (Originally aired November 19 and November 26, 1988)
Sophia meets a friend from her married days and realizes that the hatred she's held for him can pass in favor of romantic feelings. The two decide that life's too young to not act on love and they decide to marry. They also use the occasion to launch a new business venture. Buena Vista made a big fuss about maverick film director Quentin Tarantino's appearance in the Part I of this episode in their press release (and on the packaging), but he's actually just one of many Elvis impersonators who briefly appear on screen. He doesn't have a speaking part and in fact can barely be seen. He's not even the most prominent guest star from this season, but the studio seems to have an undying affection for him.

7. Brother, Can You Spare That Jacket? (24:20) (Originally aired December 3, 1988)
When Sophia inadvertently gives Blanche's jacket, which has inside it a winning lottery ticket, to charity, the four girls find themselves spending the night in a homeless shelter in the midst of a desperate treasure hunt. There is, of course, a dramatic turn of events.

Sophia comes into her own in this season. Stanley's arrival always signals a fun episode in the making. Sophia takes over as coach.

Disc 2

8. Scared Straight (24:19) (Originally aired December 10, 1988)
Blanche doesn't understand why the blind dates she sets up for her brother never seem to work out, but when he tries to tell her he's gay, she refuses to believe it.

9. Stan Takes a Wife (23:28) (Originally aired January 7, 1989)
That Stanley character is always finding himself a new bride-to-be,
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and Dorothy never cares for it. That's the case here, as she becomes convinced that she's still in love with him after he sees her through a hospital scare with Sophia.

10. The Auction (24:16) (Originally aired January 14, 1989)
Sophia gets a tip that a famous artist is in poor health, so the girls scheme to buy one of his artworks so that they can cash in on his impending death and finance the new roof that they so desperately need.

11. Blind Date (23:54) (Originally aired January 28, 1989)
Blanche doesn't mind that her new boyfriend is blind, but she's perplexed by what worth a man could possibly see in her beyond her good looks. Meanwhile, Rose's morals go out the window when her competitive edge drives her too far in coaching a little league baseball team.

12. The Impotence of Being Ernest (24:20) (Originally aired February 4, 1989)
Rose is troubled by her boyfriend's lack of intimacy with her, but learns that his problem is a little more serious than she realized.

Dorothy falls for a new beau, but Sophia disapproves in "Love Me Tender." This would make for quite the greeting card. It sure is nice to see that skyway still in tact.

13. Love Me Tender (24:18) (Originally aired February 6, 1989)
Sophia sets Dorothy up on a blind date, which turns into a purely physical relationship that disappoints Sophia. Meanwhile, Blanche and Rose take on mentoring roles for two young, motherless girls who turn out not to be as innocent as thought.

14. Valentine's Day (24:11) (Originally aired February 11, 1989)
What could be more appropriate for a DVD released on Valentine's Day than a memorable and creative flashback episode in which the girls reminisce about past Valentine's Days? They despair over the uneventfulness that the new one has brought for everyone but Sophia, who insists that she has a date with Julio Iglesias.

15. Two Rode Together (24:20) (Originally aired February 18, 1989)
It's the original sitcom-goes-to-Disney World episode! Worried that she isn't spending enough quality time with her during her elder years, Dorothy takes Sophia to Walt Disney World. When they get there, Sophia can't wait to ride Space Mountain, but Dorothy wants to stay in the hotel room and reminisce over their younger days. To believe this episode, one has to accept that Sophia's never achieved her lifelong dream of Space Mountain even though this isn't the first time she's visited the resort in the show. The cool park footage (which doesn't actually show the characters inside the park, it should be noted) more than makes up for that, though.

16. You Gotta Have Hope (23:24) (Originally aired February 25, 1989)
Dorothy is in charge of a benefit, but everything goes wrong. Rose thinks she can help, though, when she announces that legendary entertainer Bob Hope is her father.

The girls play a little poker while Rose readies for a date. Estelle Getty plays young Sophia as well as she plays old Sophia, and these appearances are "Golden Girls" classics.

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Page 1: Show Discussion, Disc 1, and Disc 2
Page 2: Disc 3, Video/Audio, Bonus Features, Menus & Packaging, and Closing Thoughts

Reviewed February 14, 2006.