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"The Golden Girls" The Complete Fifth Season DVD Review

Buy The Golden Girls: The Complete Fifth Season from Amazon.com The Golden Girls: Season Five (1989-90)
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), Harold Gould (Miles Webber), Richard Mulligan (Dr. Harry Weston), Chick Vennera (Enrique Mass)

Notable Guest Stars: Jeffrey Tambor (Dr. Stern), Park Overall (Laverne Todd), Debra Engle (Rebecca Devereaux), Dick Van Dyke (Ken Wittengham), Geraldine Fitzgerald (Martha), George Grizzard (Jaime Devereaux), Scott Jacoby (Michael Zbornak), Sheree North (Virginia Hollingsworth), Julie McCullough (Mary), Dennis Jonston (Merrill John), Robert Mandan (Steven), Molly Hagan (Caroline), Sid Melton (Salvadore Petrillo), Flo Di Re (Young Sophia Petrillo), Kyle T. Heffner (Young Salvadore Petrillo), Jandi Swanson (Young Dorothy Petrillo), Mark Moses (David), Eddie Bracken (Buzz), Barbara Babcock (Charmaine Hollingsworth), Marian Mercer (Magda), Jerry Orbach (Glen O'Brien), Howard Duff (Mangiacavello), Timothy Stack (Agent Bell), Harry Shearer (Voice of President George H. W. Bush)

Running Time: 616 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: May 9, 2006
Season 4 Airdates: September 23, 1989 - May 5, 1990
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

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

Blanche recounts another tale of her sordid past. What else would you expect from St. Olaf? Blanche and Sophia don't have a lot of scenes together but here, they get swindled in a mall by guest stars Sam McMurray ("Dinosaurs") and Nancy Lenehan.

Disc 3

19. 72 Hours (23:10) (Originally aired February 17, 1990)
Rose can't handle the news that a blood transfusion she received may have contained HIV. The three day wait for test results takes a toll on her mental well-being.
Magazines.com, Inc.
Meanwhile, Dorothy struggles to make her environmental activism efforts look appealing to potential participants.

20. Twice in a Lifetime (23:55) (Originally aired February 24, 1990)
Rose is in love with Miles, but an old flame from St. Olaf forces her to consider other options. Sophia, too, looks to make some changes when she starts going out with a rough and rowdy group of elderly women and decides to move out of the house.

21. Sisters and Other Strangers (24:00) (Originally aired March 3, 1990)
In an extremely pro-America episode, Dorothy takes in Stan's Russian cousin, who voices her criticisms of democracy and the fall of the Berlin Wall a little too frequently for Dorothy's taste. Blanche, too, is frustrated by a visitor: her sister, whose newly published book seems to have a lot in common with Blanche's own life.

22. Cheaters (24:00) (Originally aired March 24, 1990)
Glen, the married man Dorothy had an affair with in the first season, is back (now played by the late Jerry Orbach) and now divorced, prompting Dorothy to consider starting their relationship anew. A couple of cheaters get to Blanche and Sophia too, who are swindled at the local mall.

Blanche Devereaux, vixen. Par for the course, Rose is confused. The Secret Service show up in Miami in the two-part season finale.

23. The Mangiacavallo Curse Makes a Lousy Wedding Present (22:50) (Originally aired March 31, 1990)
Dorothy's goddaughter is marrying the son of a man who left Sophia at a Sicilian altar many years ago. Sophia insists she put a curse on him long ago and plans to see it all the way through at the wedding.

24. All Bets Are Off (23:50) (Originally aired April 28, 1990)
A nasty addiction to betting on horse races resurfaces in Dorothy's life and her roommates become worried. Meanwhile, Blanche is troubled by a man who rejects her sexual advances.

25. The President's Coming - Parts I & II (46:43) (Originally aired May 5, 1990)
President George H. W. Bush is coming to Miami and wants to meet with the girls at their home for a photo op. An indignant Dorothy can't wait for the opportunity to tell the President just how much she dislikes his policies (What's this? Dorothy's a Democrat? Surprise! Surprise!) An FBI agent comes for a preliminary background check and the girls recall some of their past indiscretions (and here you thought you made it all the way through a complete "Golden Girls" season without any clip shows). No, President Bush doesn't appear, but a pretty good voice impersonator does (Harry Shearer of "The Simpsons"). Originally aired in an hour-long time slot, each part is book-ended by opening and closing credits sequences.

VIDEO and AUDIO

When viewing on a large screen or standing very close to a normal-sized screen, one will notice that "The Golden Girls" on DVD runs the full gamut of picture problems: darkness, softness, artifacts, flickering, edge enhancement, etc. Fortunately, they're all kept in moderation and aren't overly offensive. The 1.33:1 transfer matches the aspect ratio of the original television broadcast and the overall quality of appearance is more or less on par with television viewings as well.

The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track is, as with the previous releases, pretty standard. It gets the job done with about as much satisfaction as should be expected from such a production, sounding just a little better than what is found daily on television. On a few rare occasions, the audio becomes a little distorted, but only for a few seconds.

Sophia really loves that yellow gown (see how many episodes you can spot it in!) Disc Two's second audio commentaries screen offers double the Betty, double the White!

BONUS FEATURES

Thanks to Disney's refusal to give this show its due in the past, the "Bonus Features" section of an UltimateDisney.com "Golden Girls" review has always promised plenty of complaint. Finally, Disney has listened! After a series of pointless and inane games that have until now served as the only "Golden Girls" supplements (oh, and a fashion "commentary" featurette), Buena Vista Home Entertainment has finally made worthwhile and substantive bonus features available to their demanding fans. Not only is that a relief for consumers, it's also a good idea for the studio, as more casual fans will be content with only a few of the earlier seasons on DVD without any exciting bonuses to entice them.

The "Golden Girls" themselves appear on this DVD in a collection of six audio commentaries. Bea Arthur, Betty White, and Rue McClanahan have each selected two of their personal favorite episodes from the fifth season to share their thoughts on
(Estelle Getty, who despite popular myth is still living and actually even younger than her on-screen daughter, Bea Arthur, is sadly in very poor health as of late and is unavailable for such activities).

McClanahan's picks are "Sick and Tired- Part II" and "An Illegitimate Concern," Arthur chose "The Accurate Conception" and "Clinton Avenue Memoirs", and White selected "Dancing in the Dark" and "Not Another Monday." All six appear on the first two discs. Their comments stick to the general; occasionally they venture into more specific areas but soon pull back as if worried that the audience wouldn't be interested. Arthur has the least to say while, predictably, White says the most and McClanahan falls somewhere between. All three fly solo on their own tracks, so there's a considerable amount of dead space during which the show's original audio track is turned up. When they are talking, however, they're sharing their unique insight on the show and some of what they say is downright fascinating for longtime fans. Discussion ranges from nuances of the film set to comparisons to "Desperate Housewives." It's clear that they're viewing these episodes for the first time in many years, and revisiting them along with them makes for a rather festive event.

At this point, anything other than gushing gratitude for the inclusion of audio commentaries feels a but like looking a gift horse in the mouth. Still, as long as I'm wearing the critical cap, a few things must be pointed out. First, the commentaries would have benefitted by having the three cast members record their thoughts together or, if scheduling made than an impossibility, at least having their individual recordings edited together. Audio commentaries aren't the only thing fans could expect, either: interviews with both cast and crew as well as goodies such as a reunion special or the stars' appearance at the Disney-MGM Studios grand opening TV special would go a long way in bestowing upon "The Golden Girls" the same treatment that other equally (or even less) popular shows receive.

Still, despite their shortcomings, the included commentaries are a true treat for fans and significantly enhance the value of this release. Kudos to Disney finally wising up. It's a shame that the first four seasons went without any such reflection on the part of these beloved talents, but the fact that Disney went for six commentaries on this set rather than three helps to soften that sting. Hopefully Disney won't drop the ball again and will continue to deliver these kind of supplements for the show's final two seasons. The commentary tracks are the only included bonuses on the discs, which means no trivia games this time around, but I don't expect anyone to be too torn up over that.

Disc One's main menu screen Disc 2's main menu screen

MENUS, DESIGN, and PACKAGING

The bright orange packaging stands out from the cooler colors used for previous "Golden Girls" releases.
Rather than appearing in individual frames, this time the four stars are pictured in one cast photo, placed inside a giant star. The whole thing screams "1980s!" despite the fact that this season took the show into a new decade. It's far from horrible, but doesn't seem to be the most marketable cover. Certainly, it maintains the pattern of even-numbered seasons getting better packaging than the odd.

The good news is the spine still matches the first four seasons perfectly. The cardboard slipcover is holographic and little darker than the more naturally-colored orange Digipak inside it. The same cover art is repeated and is accompanied by stills from the season and episode titles on the other panels. Par for the course, the first two discs overlap on one panel without touching while the third disc gets its own panel. The discs are orange with an eery, holographic complexion that make the girls (all of which appear on them) look part-Golden, part-ghostly.

The menus are in yellow rather orange but are otherwise designed just like the previous ones, with three windows of montages of mostly-fifth season footage. On the first two discs, an "Audio Commentaries" menu can be selected directly from the main menu. The episodes are each available for individual selection or all-at-once viewing via the handy "Play All" option. Each is divided into several chapters (not selectable from any menu) for convenience' sake.

The first two-parter on the disc (the season premiere) is divided into two separate episode selections, while the second one (the season finale) is presented as one. That's because the former aired over two weeks while the latter aired in one hour-long slot, which makes sense, but makes accessing the latter parts of "The President's Coming! The President's Coming!" a bit frustrating.

The first disc opens with previews for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, "Dinosaurs": The Complete First & Second Seasons, Shadows in the Sun, Everything You Want, and Buena Vista's six most popular TV series on DVD. A second set of sneak peaks can be accessed from the main menu: "The Golden Girls": The Complete Fourth Season, "Home Improvement": The Complete Fourth Season, "Scrubs": The Complete Third Season, and "Grey's Anatomy" on ABC.

Another one of those frequent kitchen discussions. Sophia's fed up with life at home.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The fifth season of "The Golden Girls" isn't as fully satisfying as the fourth was, thanks to a few too many dramatic turns, but at least in the comedy department, it comes pretty close. This classic sitcom always comes recommended and Buena Vista's inclusion of long-awaited audio commentaries make the Complete Fifth Season perhaps the best overall value yet.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com

Related Reviews:
The Golden Girls: The Complete Fourth Season The Golden Girls: Lifetime Intimate Portrait Series
The Golden Girls: The Complete Third Season The Golden Girls: The Complete Second Season
The Golden Girls: The Complete First Season Dinosaurs: The Complete First and Second Seasons
Home Improvement: The Complete First Season Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers: Volume 1
Ellen: The Complete Season Three Desperate Housewives: The Complete First Season
Tales from Avonlea: The Complete First Season Boy Meets World: The Complete First Season

Season 5 Guest Stars:
Dick Van Dyke: Mary Poppins Lt. Robin Crusoe, U.S.N. Never a Dull Moment Scrubs: Season 2
Jerry Orbach: Beauty and the Beast Beauty and the Beast: Belle's Magical World The Return of Jafar
Jeffrey Tambor: Eloise at the Plaza Eloise at Christmastime The Muppets Wizard of Oz
Richard Mulligan: Oliver & Company | Harry Shearer: Chicken Little
Howard Gould: Whisper of the Heart Freaky Friday (2003) The Strongest Man in the World

UltimateDisney.com | DVD Review Index | Disney / Buena Vista TV Shows Page | Search UltimateDisney.com

The Golden Girls on DVD: Season 1 Season 2 Season 3 Season 4 Season 5 Season 6 Season 7 NEW!


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

Reviewed May 9, 2006.