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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

Sophia brings home a boxer. Dorothy's prankster of a friend turns up for their high school reunion. It looks like Rose isn't the only one with an addiction in "High Anxiety."

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

Disc 3

17. Fiddler on the Ropes (24:20) (Originally aired March 4, 1989)
Sophia spends the girls' money on a boxer, who she thinks can reel in big bucks for them.
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That becomes a problem with the boxer turns out to be a better performer behind a violin than in the ring.

18. 'Til Death Do We Volley (24:00) (Originally aired March 18, 1989)
Dorothy hosts a high school reunion at her house, but the arrival of her best friend, Trudy (Anne Francis), re-ignites a childhood practical joke rivalry that quickly gets out of hand.

19. High Anxiety (24:19) (Originally aired March 25, 1989)
The girls discover that Rose has been addicted to pain killer medication for 30 years, a fact that Rose isn't eager to own up to.

20. Little Sister (24:08) (Originally aired April 1, 1989)
Rose can't stand her conniving younger sister, Holly (Inga Swenson), which makes it all the more unbearable when her friends start spending more time with Holly than with Rose.

You may recognize Ellen Dow from "The Wedding Singer" soundtrack. Dorothy meets her potential parents. Sophia bows to her prospective home buyer.

21. Sophia's Choice (23:43) (Originally aired April 15, 1989)
Sophia enlists Rose to help her spring one of her friends (Ellen Dow) from a downtrodden nursing home.

22. Rites of Spring (24:07) (Originally aired April 29, 1989)
While Sophia worries that she's lost too much weight, the other three look back on their past attempts to lose weight.

23. Foreign Exchange (24:21) (Originally aired May 6, 1989)
Sicilian family shows up at the house and reveals that Dorothy may not actually be Sophia's daughter. To make matters worse, the couple that claims to be her real parents have set up an arranged marriage for her back in Italy. Sophia doesn't buy into the whole story, but it leaves Dorothy extremely distraught. This episode was "The Golden Girls"' 100th.

24. We're Outta Here (Part I & Part II) (48:31) (Originally aired May 13, 1989)
The season concludes with a two-part clip show that aired in a one-hour programming block on NBC. When Sophia accidentally advertises the house as being for sale, Blanche receives a substantial offer for the sale of her home from a mogul by the name of Mr. Yakamora (Ralph Ahn, who appeared in another bit role earlier in the season). As she considers it, the girls worry about how life may change for them after the move and look back at their happiest memories with one another.

Don't you wanna know what Sophia's doing on the other side of the room? The living room color scheme is so distinctly 1980s.

VIDEO and AUDIO

If an eye is kept open for visual annoyances that are common among DVD releases of older TV series (grain, artifacts, discoloration, darkness, the moiré effect, etc.), just about all of them will be found. Put these episodes up against those in the first season, however, and there's a noticeable improvement. That's likely due to the fact that these episodes are simply newer than those and not evidence of any grand polishing job. The appearance of these older episodes in the clip shows on this set support that. But then, the discrepancies that have previously occurred in exterior day-to-night transitional shots aren't nearly as problematic this time, and it's possible that something other than a year of relative infancy is responsible for that (or not).

The 1.33:1 fullscreen presentation is true to the series' original television broadcast. The show could certainly look better, but its appearance doesn't impede on sincere enjoyment of the show at any time.

The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track is fairly standard. It delivers mostly clear sound that is in keeping with reasonable expectations for a late-'80s television presentation. The video and audio departments fail to offer drastic improvements over Lifetime's syndicated re-airings of the show, but they are improvements nonetheless.

The set's lone bonus feature introduces guest stars with this kind of hokey phrase. Apparently, Mr. Bob Hope is Rose's father!

BONUS FEATURES

The Complete Fourth Season is yet another bitter disappointment in the bonus features department. Why four seasons of one of television history's most successful and enduring sitcoms have been released in some of the flimsiest sets in the industry is a mystery. A lot of complaining seems at least temporarily unnecessary, however. Season Five's release is just around the corner and it promises to have the show's first audio commentaries (and hopefully some other meaningful features too).

In the meantime, fans have no option but to accept the unacceptable in this department once again. There's but one bonus feature here: the nicely-edited but long-winded and unnecessary "Top 10 Guest Stars of Season Four" featurette (11:46). Like the previous "Golden Girl" bonuses, it amounts to a lot of re-watching of the episodes that have just been seen their entirety. This season isn't even particularly rich with guest stars. It appears on the first disc rather than the third and is accessible from the main menu. The one thing that makes this worth a look is the animated arrow that the DVD producers had to employ just to illustrate just where Quentin Tarantino actually appears in this show. At least they didn't give him the top spot.

The Golden Girls: Season 4, Disc 1 - The Main Menu. An episode selection screen on the third disc.

MENUS, DESIGN, and PACKAGING

While the pink-clad Complete Third Season set came last November, Valentine's Day offers St. Patrick's Day-green packaging instead. Go figure. As usual, the first two discs lie atop one another with adequate space between them on one panel and the third disc occupies another. The episode titles are printed inside the first flap, but are disappointingly not printed on the individual discs, which are a lot shinier and more reflective this time. Inside is an outdated ad for Buena Vista TV-on-DVD releases (it still says Season 3 is "Coming Soon") and another flier for the "Golden Girls"-themed Lifetime "Intimate Portrait" documentary disc.

The menu design remains the same as it's always been. Various episode clips rotate while a
MIDI-esque rendition of the theme song plays. Unfortunately, a lot of the footage used in the menus comes from clip shows and not fourth season-specific video. That's not a big deal, but is a bit of a blow to the theme. Each episode is selectable by itself (where one can be impressed by the clever episode titles) or can be viewed in succession via the "Play All" option. Each is also divided into several chapter stops that can't be accessed from a menu but do make scene selection easier.

The two-part episodes included in this season are actually two different episodes that simply link in content. They have their own opening and closing sequence, yet they are presented as one episode selection. That makes reaching Part II a bit of a nuisance and pretty much requires watching both episodes in one sitting. This isn't the first time the sets have done this, but it seems worth pointing out.

Opening the disc is a trailer for The Shaggy Dog as well as another Tim Allen release: "Home Improvement": The Complete Fourth Season on DVD. It and "Scrubs" (the third season of which has its own preview in the disc launch) are part of the studio's six best-selling TV releases, all of which are profiled in a sneak peek as well. From the main menu, a second page of previews can be reached, which contains looks at Empire (an apparent made-for-TV Gladiator rip-off now on DVD), Once Upon a Mattress, the third season release of "The Golden Girls," and the ABC sitcom, "Hope & Faith."

Cheesecake! The Golden Girls go Platinum!

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Simply put, "The Golden Girls" arrives at perfection in its fourth season. While its best days were far from over at the end of this season (which brought it to a total of 51 Emmy nominations and 10 wins, a number that would still increase in future years), this marks the year in which it becomes a point of reference for what a more modern sitcom should be. One need not be a member of its originally intended demographic to enjoy it; indeed, many of its biggest fans aren't even close. Its charm is embraceable and its appeal is near-universal. While the DVD is sadly anything but perfect -- decent audio/video treatment and one lackluster bonus feature is all consumers get -- the episodes presented in it are strong enough to earn an eager recommendation nonetheless, especially in light of the brighter fifth season release on the horizon.

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Related Reviews:
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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.