The longest running show in prime time doesn’t feature cops, doctors, or lawyers. It’s hard to believe that The Simpsons have existed as long as the Fox network. While the series didn’t really begin until Fox’s second year, the characters were part of The Tracey Ullman Show, which did start the first year of Fox. Who could have guessed that an animated short from an otherwise horrible and doomed variety show would explode into such a phenomenon. The Simpsons have not only dominated the pop culture; they have placed…everything else into context with their show. Like Doonesbury, it could be said that the only thing worse than being made fun of on The Simpsons is not being made fun of on The Simpsons. With that said, you’ll understand my warm feelings and appreciation for this show.
It’s hard to imagine that we’re getting the 12th season but we’re still not closing in on the current run of episodes. This thing has been on forever. Still, it never gets old. The show has a charm yet edginess to it that can’t be beat. Let’s not forget that while kids might love the show, this stuff is intended for adults. We’re not talking South Park trash talk here. Every episode is a veritable treasure hunt of subtle and not so subtle cultural references. Even after seeing an episode several times, it’s not uncommon for me to find something that I missed before.
The head of the Simpson family is father Homer (Castellaneta). Homer’s pretty much a moron who happens to run a control panel at the local nuclear power plant. There’s nothing he wouldn’t do for a donut or a Duff’s beer. He happily meanders into the most outrageous situations with really no control over his family at all. Mother Marge (Kavner) loves her family but is usually frustrated by Homer’s mess ups. She’s the smart one who manages to keep the family together. Son Bart (Cartwright) is a teenage bad boy on a skateboard. Whatever prank there is, he’s played it. He’s lazy and will go to great lengths to get out of work.. Daughter Lisa (Smith) must have been adopted, but wasn’t, much to her own disappointment. She’s bright, hard working, and talented. Too bad she ends up thwarted most of the time by her father or brother. There’s baby Maggie to wind up the family. Homer likes to hang with his friends at Harry’s Bar, where he can relax with a Duff in his natural element. The town of Springfield is populated with all sorts of colorful characters that often weave their lives intricately into the lives of the Simpson clan. Of course, this isn’t news to any of you. Love them, hate them or indifferent, everyone knows The Simpsons.
Some of the adventures you’ll find in season 12 include one of the better episodes. Another edition of the Halloween tradition of Tree house of Terror. There’s three shorts crammed into the 20 minutes that tell tales of hilarious horror. This season they include a discovery that broccoli is the deadliest plant on Earth; I knew it all along. The Who guest star when Springfield is divided over split area codes. Lisa becomes a tree hugger for a boy she likes. Homer becomes a Gossip Girl type of expose writer, revealing all of Springfield’s dirty little secrets. Bart and Homer become grifters after they find out how easy it is to make money on the con. In one of my favorite episodes, doctors discover that Homer has had a crayon stuck in his brain since he was a kid. When it’s removed, Homer suddenly reveals himself to be a genius and loving father. He and Lisa begin to bond, but they must sacrifice that bond when the Simpson way of life is threatened forever. Marge starts to volunteer at the local prison after she sees potential in one of the inmates, but is he just using her? Bart and friend Millhouse take over the comic book store when the owner has a heart attack. Krusty is done with show biz, and it’s his 5th retirement. Homer becomes an advocate for the “little guy”. Homer hassles the bag boy at the market, which leads to a bag boy strike and trouble for Springfield. Bart wants to get his hands on Fat Tony’s stash of black market fireworks. It’s all packed into 4 discs of fun for the whole or is that hole family.
Each episode of The Simpsons is presented in its original broadcast full frame format. I expected a little more out of the video. The cartoons here are from 2000 but don’t have quite the bright nature I was hoping for. Colors are fine. The series uses a ton of yellow, and it really does stand out. The picture itself was a bit soft and not so deep in detail. Black levels are only average. There’s not really anything terribly wrong with the image, but it doesn’t really stand out either.
he set’s audio is provided through a Dolby Digital 5.1 track. The dialog sounds perfectly sharp and comes through clearly from the front. The music is well balanced in the mains, always coming in at the appropriate volume for the mood. As would be expected with a TV disc set, the use of surrounds is sparse – the rears seem to be reserved for the exclusive use of the opening musical segment. However, let’s not forget that a huge part of what makes The Simpsons great is the voice-acting and the orchestra, both of which sound great.
There are extras connected with almost every episode. These features include: Deleted Scenes, Storyboards, Animatics, Commentaries, Illustrated Commentaries (like football game drawings), picture in picture features, and a couple of Easter Eggs.
A Comic Moment With Matt Groening: (1:22) This is a quick welcome and list of the season’s notable guest voice actors.
Comic Book Guy Best Moments Ever: (9:38) Clips of The Comic Book Guy through the years.
The Global Fanfest: (7:22) There was a backlot festival where preview clips were shown complete with live orchestra score.
Commercials: Some Simpsons related ads for Butterfinger, Burger King, and Red Rooster.
Pop culture, politics, religion, current events. Nothing escapes the satire of this almost sacred institution. Now entering its 21st season, there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight. It’s the longest running scripted program on television today. It has been a part of the Fox network since its inception. I would have enjoyed the set much more if it hadn’t come in a pretty wacked out package. The discs are in cardboard sleeves that make it impossible to remove them without planting fingerprints on the playable side. One of my discs is already scratched. Yeah, the foldout is pretty cool but long-term I’d rather my discs lasted. “This is why I can’t have nice things.”