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.
The season 14 release might be the best yet. The title appears to focus on the horror comedy of the series. You get some extra Treehouse Of Horror episodes and classic horror moments from the series. It’s the best list of extras yet.
There are also some classic episodes to contend with in this release: The series reached a milestone 300 episodes with Barting Over. Skating guru Tony Hawk stars in an episode where Bart discovers he was once rich and famous, but Homer blew all of the money. Now he wants his freedom from Homer and Marge. In The Great Louise Detective, someone is trying to kill Homer. His only hope of catching the murderer is to have Sideshow Bob tag along. As an extra precaution, Bob is outfitted with a device that allows the family to shock him if he gets out of control. In The Dad Who Knew Too Little, Homer is afraid of losing Lisa because he doesn’t know anything about her. He hires a PI and racks up a huge bill he can’t pay. Lisa ends up framed for a crime, and Homer takes her on the run where they end up bonding….sort of. How about Krusty getting elected to Congress? It happens in Mr. Spitz Goes To Washington.
How about guest voices? This season includes: Tony Bennett, Adam West (Batman), Burt Ward (Robin), Larry Holmes, Little Richard, Elliott Gould, Blink 182, Marisa Tomei, Eric Idle, Weird Al Yankovic, Andy Serkis, Stacy Keach, Jackson Browne, Steve Buscemi and Joe Mantegna.
Each episode of The Simpsons is presented in its original broadcast format. That means you get half of the episodes in full frame and the rest in 1.78:1. This is obviously the point where the show made the HD transition. 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 would have liked to 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.
Extra Treehouse Of Horror Episodes and Classic Scenes From others.
A Haunting Invite From Matt Groening: (2:12)
In The Beginning: (12:43) All of the Treehouse intros.
It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll: (9:05) A look at the musical guests along with interviews and voice recording sessions.
Sketch Galleries, Deleted Scenes and Animation Showcases.
It’s the show that refuses to die. The Treehouse episodes have become Halloween tradition, and I can’t imagine when the day will come and they won’t be there. The cast almost caused the show to end with some tight negotiations, but it’s all settled now, and we can look forward to the Simpsons for many years to come. “Cowabunga, Dude.”