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New season sets of 'Little House,' 'Kotter' on DVD this week

Posted: January 25, 2015 11:58 a.m.
Updated: January 25, 2015 11:58 a.m.
Chris Hicks/

Mary Ingalls (Melissa Sue Anderson) hugs her father (Michael Landon) as she realizes she's going blind in the fourth season of "Little House on the Prairie," now in a new remastered release on Blu-ray and DVD.

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“Little House on the Prairie” and “Welcome Back, Kotter” lead TV shows on DVD this week.

“Little House On the Prairie: Season Four” (Lionsgate/Blu-ray/DVD/Digital, 1977-78, five discs, 22 episodes, featurette). Truth in advertising is really the case with these releases of Michael Landon’s venerable family show, as the sets are touted as having “better picture, better sound” and that each episodes has been “restored to broadcast length.”

The latter refers to some previous editions that used episodes trimmed for syndication after their network run. And considering the quality of televisions in the 1970s, these Blu-rays and DVDs probably do look better than when they first aired.

This season Merlin Olsen makes his debut as farming neighbor Jonathan Garvey, and plots include Laura (Melissa Gilbert) being kidnapped and Mary (Melissa Sue Anderson) losing her eyesight.

“Welcome Back, Kotter: The Complete Second Season” (Shout!/DVD, 1976-77, four discs, 23 episodes). If there’s an antecedent to this amusing sitcom it’s probably the Bowery Boys, a group of comic juvenile delinquents in a string of 1950s B-movies starring Leo Gorcey and Huntz Hall.

Here it’s the sweathogs, played by John Travolta, Ron Palillo, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs and Robert Hegyes, with teacher Mr. Kotter (Gabe Kaplan) as their wrangler, if you will.

The Bowery Boys movies had thin plots that served as excuses for wheezy vaudeville routines and slapstick comedy, and that’s more or less what happens here as Kotter tries to keep the boys in line, especially when the school’s apoplectic principal (John Sylvester White) shows up. Marcia Strassman plays Kotter’s wife, and George Carlin, John Astin and Valerie Curtain make guest appearances.

“Wolfblood: Season Three” (Cinedigm/DVD, 2014, two discs, 13 episodes, seven webisodes). This British half-hour fantasy is aimed at kids who have grown up on “Twilight” and focuses on a pair of teenagers that are half-human and half-wolf (“wolfbloods”), trying to keep the wolf side a secret. This season they go up against someone determined to exterminate their kind.

“Swamp People: Season 5” (Lionsgate/DVD, 2014, five discs, 21 episodes, deleted scenes). This History cable-channel reality series follows Cajuns in Louisiana’s wetland swamps as they hunt alligators for a living. This season the crew faces off with poachers, cannibal gators and the “Devil’s Ditch,” famed for its abundance of gators and an array of mishaps that plague hunters.

“The Magic Bus: Season One” (Scholastic/DVD, 1995, two discs, 13 episodes). The award winning animated science-exploration show for children returns with the debut of this second-season set. (A new reboot of this series is scheduled to debut on Netflix in 2016.)

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