The Golden Girls: The Complete Fifth Season

There's so much to admire about a series like The Golden Girls that it’s difficult to throw criticism its way. It managed to reach the top of the ratings year after year by catering to the 50-plus female demographic, a group often completely ignored. It used senior women, a group often stereotyped for their "old-fashioned” ways, to bring up issues that were liberal and/or taboo. And it had a lot of good, ol’ heart, from (Betty White) Rose's stories of her Minnesota upbringing to (Estelle Getty) Sophia's one-liners. But in its fifth season, The Golden Girls finally began to show its not inconsiderable age, which makes this latest DVD set a tad questionable. If you have the first four, perhaps it’s best to leave it that way. A year filmed during George H.W. Bush’s lone term in office, this season seemed to crank its social commentary agenda into high gear, tackling issues that included artificial insemination, age discrimination, euthanasia, environmentalism, AIDS, homelessness, animal rights, unclassified illnesses, teenage pregnancy, infidelity and addiction. Important? Certainly. Funny? Not so much. The humour gets very over-the-top and its "let’s poke fun at the characters’ stereotypes” bit is by then running on empty. It’s like watching those "The More You Know” ads from NBC's mid-’90s peak except with a "Blanche is a slut” joke thrown in every few seconds. Keep in mind that these gals had a lot to live up to. There are certainly still some great moments throughout the season, just not what this talented group of actresses and writers were capable of. Unfortunately, if memory serves, it just gets worse from here, leading right up to the "Golden Goodbye” that led to Dorothy's marriage to Leslie Neilsen and the rest of them adrift in that horrible spin-off. The extras are basic: a commentary here, a thrown together clip show there. Watch the first four seasons again, and pretend it ends there. (Buena Vista)