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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

By Aaron Wallace

The fourth season of "The Golden Girls" was the strongest the series had seen, brimming with creative energy in the writing department and one hilarious delivery after another from the exceptional cast. The comedic charm that earned the show a consistent spot in the ratings' Top 10 (on Saturday nights, no less!) was still turned on for the fifth season, during which "The Golden Girls" entered the 1990s and earned even more Emmy nominations and critical acclaim. The healthy balance between
comedy and drama that makes the fourth season stand out, however, tipped a little off-scale with the sitcom's return in the fall of 1989.

As a new White House administration promised extended conservative leadership, "The Golden Girls" decided to try its hand at social commentary in the fifth season more frequently than it had in the past. Among the topics touched on are artificial insemination, age discrimination, euthanasia, environmentalism, AIDS, homelessness, animal rights, unclassified illnesses, teenage pregnancy, infidelity, and addiction.

The season even ends with a few partisan jabs when President Bush (the first) pays a visit to the girls. In one of Bea Arthur's audio commentaries (that's right, there are finally commentaries, but more on that later), the actress praises the show for discussing these issues from different points of view without attempting to solve them. To some extent, that's true, as there's usually a joke or turn of events at the end of the episode that redeems the bias that sometimes seems otherwise transparent.

Each "Golden Girls" episode begins with a jet headed for a Miami landing. Dorothy shows off some of her inherited Sicilian spunk.

Of course, one of the chief reasons for the show's reputable standing among media critics is its ability to challenge preconceptions about old age, so engagement with issues relevant to older women are to be expected and a popular series should never barred from exploring the issues of its time ("The Golden Girls" already exists as a fascinating sample of the past -- euthanasia is referred to only as "suicide," for example). It must also be said that to the show's credit, the most dramatic episodes are still filled with extremely funny "B" plots.

So if there's so much justification, you ask, why the agitated tone? Well, the more serious stories are never the most fondly remembered from "The Golden Girls," and the fifth season feels too heavy-handed at its beginning and end (the first four and last two episodes in particular). Outside of the show, the four stars are known for their political activism and they no doubt want to look at "The Golden Girls" as an important social institution. To some extent, it certainly was -- the American audience had never seen vivacious and "well-groomed" (to quote Betty White) senior citizens in the spotlight before, and one can even argue that any show as well-received by the masses in more than 60 countries as "The Golden Girls" was cannot fail to operate as an important point of reflection for society. Yet undeniably, it's the clever comedy that makes "The Golden Girls" special and timeless.

And don't let all this griping fool you -- The Complete Fifth Season is a barrel of laughs. Some of the best moments of the entire seven year run are found here, from the girls' "Mr. Sandman" serenade to Sophia's return trip to Brooklyn (one of those heartwarming instances where the writers get drama right). Any outing with these oh so well-defined characters promises a good time.

Sophia shows off her latest purchases from a Costco-like outlet. "Mr. Sandman"

Each distinct and wholly believable, the four women are one of television's finest ensemble casts. So authentic and simultaneously complimentary and contrasting are Dorothy Zbornak (Bea Arthur), Rose Nylund (Betty White), Blanche Devereaux (Rue McClanahan), and Sophia Petrillo (Estelle Getty), that anyone can chart their own personality somewhere on the map of these characters, making those "Which Golden Girl Are You?" quizzes pretty nifty. The fifth season is like the one before it in that it treats audiences with plenty of scenes featuring all four together, often setting the stage for some of their funniest scenes.

Not only is the show itself in the fifth season both immensely enjoyable and highly recommended, Disney's DVD presentation finally offers consumers something to celebrate. That's all explained in detail on Page 2, but first a look at Season Five's episodes.

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

Just what the doctor ordered: an "Empty Nest" cross-over! Blanche battles writer's block in "Sick & Tired - Part II" Consumers aren't the only ones getting some DVD this week!

Disc 1

1. Sick & Tired - Part 1 (24:01) (Originally aired September 23, 1989)
After months of suffering from what she thought was the flu, Dorothy concludes that her constant fatigue and sickness has to stem from something more serious, despite every doctor's insistence that her problems must be mental. Meanwhile, Blanche is determined to write a romance novel.

2. Sick & Tired - Part II (23:51) (Originally aired September 30, 1989)
Dorothy learns that her sickness actually does have a name but, unfortunately, no immediate cure (which leaves one wondering why she seems fine for the rest of the season). Blanche finishes her story but now has to deal with severe sleep deprivation.
This episode features a cross-over with "Empty Nest"'s Dr. Harry Weston (Richard Mulligan) and Laverne Todd (Park Overall). This marks show creator Susan Harris' final writing credit in the series.

3. The Accurate Conception (24:01) (Originally aired October 14, 1989)
Blanche is shocked by her daughter's announcement of plans to become pregnant via artificial insemination. This isn't Rebecca Devereaux's first appearance on the show, but it is the first time that she's portrayed by Debra Engle.

4. Rose Fights Back (23:39) (Originally aired October 21, 1989)
Rose faces financial jeopardy when her late husband's pension runs out. Her job hunt proves more difficult than expected thanks to her age, but she finally ends up at a television station that doesn't look unlike that of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," which Betty White also starred in. What happened to her former job as a grief counselor? Unfortunately, that's never explained, nor is the fact that this episode is remarkably similar "The Job Hunt" in the first season. In a separate story, Sophia gets hooked on buying in bulk.

5. Love Under the Big Top (23:31) (Originally aired October 28, 1989)
Dorothy's excited by her relationship with a hot shot lawyer (Dick Van Dyke) but isn't sure how to respond to his decision to leave his profession to become a circus clown. His degree at least comes in handy for Rose and Blanche, who are staging a protest to save endangered dolphins.

Rose can't keep up with the college crowd. Sophia counsels her friend against suicide. Dorothy tries her hand at stand-up comedy in "Comedy of Errors."

6. Dancing in the Dark (23:49) (Originally aired November 4, 1989)
Rose strikes up a relationship with Dr. Miles Webber (Harold Gould, who previously appeared on the show as a different boyfriend for Rose), a college professor who would go on to become a long-term significant other for Rose. Blanche, on the other hand, can't get a date at all. A college professors party leaves Rose troubled by her intellectual inferiority to Miles.

7. Not Another Monday (24:01) (Originally aired November 11, 1989)
Sophia doesn't know what to do when her good friend tells her of her plan to commit suicide, leading to one Estelle Getty's best performances. Back home, in another series classic, Dorothy, Blanche, and Rose are baby-sitting and find that only "Mr. Sandman" can put the sick child to sleep. Richard Mulligan makes another cross-over appearance as "Empty Nest"'s Dr. Harry Weston.

8. That Old Feeling (23:28) (Originally aired November 18, 1989)
Blanche falls for her brother-in-law, who happens to bear a number of striking resemblances to her late husband.

9. Comedy of Errors (23:51) (Originally aired November 25, 1989)
Dorothy decides to pursue one of her lifetime goals: stand-up comedy. That puts Bea Arthur in a familiar spotlight that suits her well. Meanwhile, Blanche is frustrated by an IRS audit.

Dorothy counsels her son, Michael, on life's hard knocks. Stan goes all out for Christmas, but he has some surprising news for Dorothy. Sophia's wary of the family friend's violent dog.

Disc 2

10. All That Jazz (24:00) (Originally aired December 2, 1989)
Dorothy's son, Michael (Scott Jacoby), is back and as usual, that means he needs something. This time, it's money and a place to stay, as his ever-fledgling music career isn't quite taking off. Encouraged by her friends, Dorothy finally decides to show Michael some tough love and force Stan to do the same. At her job, Rose has to face up to the fact that her work load has become too much for her to handle.

11. Ebb Tide (24:00) (Originally aired December 9, 1989)
Having been featured in several episodes, Blanche's father, "Big Daddy" Hollingsworth, dies. Blanche has trouble grieving, especially when a reunion with her sister, Virginia (Sheree North) results in an argument.

12. Have Yourself A Very Little Christmas (23:36) (Originally aired December 16, 1989)
It's a hot Christmas in Miami, so the girls decide to skip the shopping season and simply exchange simple gifts with one another at home. Later, they lend a helping hand at the local homeless shelter, where Dorothy learns some surprising news about Stan.

13. Mary Had a Little Lamb (23:40) (Originally aired January 6, 1990)
The foursome take in a young girl whose father-- a friend of the family-- has kicked her out of the house following the news of her pregnancy. Dorothy is called to the role of arbitrator. Meanwhile, Blanche has been playing pen-pal with a prison convict, which proves to be a big problem when he gets out one early parole.

America's signature Southern Belle goes West! Sophia's late husband, Sal, makes a guest apparition. So that's what Dorothy looked like as a kid.

14. Great Expectations (23:55) (Originally aired January 13, 1990)
Rose tries to teach the others a lesson in positive thinking by inviting them to her feel-good support group. Blanche has trouble feeling happy, though, when she learns that her boyfriend has suffered a heart attack and is reluctant to go to the hospital.

15. Triple Play (24:01) (Originally aired January 27, 1990)
Blanche runs a dating scam by placing a fake ad for cheap car sale in order to meet men.
While she entertains suitors in the living room, Rose tries to convince Miles' daughter that she's a worthy match for her father.

16. Clinton Avenue Memoirs (23:55) (Originally aired February 3, 1990)
The series had contained a number of flashbacks to Dorothy and Sophia's younger years in Brooklyn up to this point. Now, as Sophia's memory begins to fade, they travel to the same old apartment from all those flashbacks as it exists now, where an even older flashback awaits them. Back home, Rose gives Blanche a short-lived job as her assistant.

17. Like the Beep, Beep, Beep of the Tom-Tom (23:49) (Originally aired February 10, 1990)
Blanche learns that she needs a pacemaker, prompting her to reevaluate her lifestyle and take a most uncharacteristic vow of celibacy.

18. An Illegitimate Concern (24:00) (Originally aired February 12, 1990)
A mysterious stranger lurking around the house turns out to be Blanche's late husband's child from another relationship. Blanche, who had always believed her husband to be as faithful as she had been, is devastated. Meanwhile, Dorothy and Sophia enter a mother-daughter talent pageant.

Funerals are an all too familiar occasion for Sophia. A great view of the lanai

Continue to Page 2 >>

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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.