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.
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 who 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 13 include a few classics. The season opens with the 12th edition of the show’s annual Treehouse Of Horror. Here Homer gets cursed by a gypsy he ticks off, a computer falls in love with Marge and tries to kill Homer, Bart and Lisa attend a Hogwarts type of wizard school. In The Parent Rap, Homer and Bart are ordered tied together in punishment for Homer’s negligent parenting. The band REM play on the episode Homer The Moe, and Homer takes over the bar while Moe seeks to find himself. In Tales From The Public Domain, an overdue library book inspires Homer to tell his versions of Hamlet, Joan Of Arc, and The Odyssey. The family ends up in Brazil in Blame It On Lisa. The episode would stir some controversy when the city of Rio tries to sue the show for making their city look bad. Homer smokes medical pot in Weekend At Burnsie’s. Stan Lee is the guest on I Am Furious (Yellow). Bart creates a comic based on Homer called Angry Dad. It becomes a sensation. In Poppa’s Got A Brand New Badge, Homer starts his own security company to protect his family from the looters that have gotten out of control during a heat wave series of blackouts.
Each episode of The Simpsons is presented in its original broadcast format. That means you get the episodes in full frame. The picture quality itself doesn’t change a lot. The whole thing looks about as good as it could. Colors are bright and cheerful. Detail is something you won’t believe possible in cartoons. This will blow you away even if you’ve seen them on HD television. I was glad to finally see the shows on three discs instead of two, but there is no compression artifact, just a lower bit rate than I was hoping for.
The set’s audio is provided through a DTS-HD Master Audio 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.
All of the DVD features have been ported over.
It’s a bit odd that the series begins its backlog of seasons on Blu-ray with season 13. Matt provides an interesting essay on the number in the full-color booklet also provided. I’m looking forward to many more happy returns from the most famous animated family in television history. The Blu-rays will do a great job of replacing those DVD’s. You say you have copies dubbed from television? “Eh, whoa! Isn’t that stealing?”