Friday, February 5, 2010

DVD Review: Simpsons Season 20

I guess I should finally get off my ass and actually contribute something for Simpsons Month. I'll start off this special month of entries with a review of the most current DVD Release: Season 20!

Ta-da! Here it is in its full DVD glory, I guess. I kept wondering why Fox decided to release Season 20 now, while skipping seasons 13-19 in the process, but I believe I have the answer: Blu-Ray. Yes, Season 20 was the first season to be animated in High Definition, so a transition to Blu-Ray would be relatively simple compared to adapting the previous 19 seasons in this format. I guess with the "Hi-def Wars" finally won, it seemed like Fox wanted to release Hi-Def Season 20 as soon as possible because if we don't support this thing, it might not make it!

The first thing you notice about this set is obviously the packaging. Compared to the packing of even the first five seasons, Season 20 seems to be as generic as possible. It's the same "20th Anniversery" art that's been showing up everywhere! It's like they didn't want to pay the burnt-out animators one penny more to take some time out to draw a simple DVD cover.

On the plus side, the inside cover finally gives us an update to the "Let's Cram as Many Simpsons Characters as We Can into This Picture!" Here is that shot again, but with closeups of each section:

Instead of leaving off at Season 9 like the old poster did, we have a sheet that's updated for the 20th season! From the most recent season, I can clearly identify Maya, Simon Woosterfield, Alaska Nebraska, Jenny, and Bestimus Mucho (the Bumblebee Parody from Treehouse of Horror XXIX's "Untitled Robot Parody"). It does tell something about this season when I had to research the names of the latter two characters, yet I can pick out much more obscure characters like all 7 Duffs (Edgy, Tipsy, Sleazy, Queasy, Dizzy, Surly and Remorseful), all 8 of Apu's Children (Uma, Priya, Sashi, Poonam, Anoop, Gheet, Sandeep & Nabendu), Duff McShark, Lugash, Sideshow Raheem, The Inanimate Carbon Rod, Chad Sexington, The Screamapiller, and quite a few more that you probably don't care about.

Allright, it's on to the DVD itself. As you can see, the menus pretty much confirmed that Fox just said "fuck it, let's rush it" to this set. The animation is nothing more than Matt Groening sketching out characters, which is sketched out verrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrryyyyy ssssssllllooooowwwwwwllllyyyy. This rush job attitude extends to the special features.

Which is to say, there's none. None. At. All. Now, I'm a guy who firmly believes that the Commentary makes or breaks a DVD set for me, and when I discovered that there was a total lack of a mention on it on the DVD Cover, I started to panic. It's a Simpsons DVD set, they go all out, right? Commentaries, Deleted Scenes, random featurettes, commentaries FOR the deleted scenes, the works. Turns out, there's not even an introductory video from Matt Groening that opened up every DVD set since Season 6. I checked Amazon to find to my horror that, in terms of extras: nope, nothin' at all!

Nothin' at all!

Nothin' at all!

...Stupid, Sexy Flanders. Anyway, there's an enormous amount of stuff that they could make DVD extras for! Stuff on the guest stars, various Simpsons Swag, Maggie finally talking, her first words to the family in "Coming To Homerica," and a full-on diatribe voiced by Jodie Foster in "Four Great Women & A Manicure," a thing about the crossword that appears at the end of "Homer & Lisa Exchange Cross Words" being the ACTUAL NY Times Crossword for the day that the episode aired, the fact that THIS WAS THE 20TH SEASON OF A TV SHOW. Anything!

Okay, there IS something on this set. On Disc 4, there's a sneak peek of the 20th Anniversary Special. There were two problems with this:

1) Said special could not be included on the DVD, as it aired TWO DAYS PRIOR TO THIS DVD HITTING THE SHELVES.
2) It's the exact. same. clip that's found on Hulu. You can see it here.

So if you just happen to have all 21 episodes on your DVR, congratulations, you just saved $30! Even without all of the non-commentary extras, I still feel like this bare-bones set is a complete slap in the face to anyone who consider themselves as "Simpsons Fans."

But I'll be completely honest with you: If you just plain want to see the episodes and don't really care about the extras, by all means, pick up the set. Because this was a GOOD season. Sure, it's not at the unreachable levels of awesome that seasons 4-7 had, but Season 20 was one of the most consistently good seasons this show has had in a while.

The best episodes in this season, in my opinion: "Homer and Lisa Exchange Cross Words," "Lisa The Drama Queen," "In The Name of The Grandfather," "THoH XXIX," "Take My Life, Please," and "Gone Maggie Gone," which was probably one of the best episodes in quite a while.

The show's been on for 20 years, there's a few duds, too. Namely "Wedding For Disaster," where Marge becomes a Bridezilla when organizing her third wedding (turns out Rev. Lovejoy wasn't licensed when he remarried Homer & Marge back in "A Milhouse Divided"), and "Father Knows Worst," where Marge becomes obsessed with the house's secret sauna while Homer becomes a Helicopter Parent (God, I hate those. Perhaps its the fact that they played the actual mannerisms completely dead-on, and just didn't seem right with Homer. He was finally using Whole-Assed Over-parenting, and I'll agree with Bart & Lisa, in which I prefer Homer's half-assed under-parenting any day of the week).

Then there's the Fountainhead segment from "Four Great Women and a Manicure," which, as I said earlier, is where Maggie talks with Jodie Foster's voice. Much like Bart admitting he was El Barto, Maude Flanders getting killed off or Moe getting a cell phone, it was one of those things that JUST. SHOULDN'T. HAPPEN. Whenever I watched that scene, I kept imagining Maggie from THoH V saying "This is indeed a disturbing universe" in James Earl Jones' voice, just ripe from murdering Groundskeeper Willie with an axe.

But, to be completely honest, even those episodes aren't BAD (I'll get to those episodes later). They just pale in comparison to the awesomeness of the episodes that surround them.

To close, if you're like me and just want the episode because your DVR kept cutting off the first few minutes of episodes and/or missing good chunks of them because of work and not discovering Hulu until it's too late, or if you just plain don't mind a bare-bones Simpsons set, I recommend picking it up. Everyone else, especially if you absolutely love the extra bang for the buck as well as the absolute care that went into the previous 12 season sets, SKIP IT. This was one of the few DVDs where I suffered buyer's remorse, but the quality of the episodes alleviated it somewhat.

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