Like most people, I was excited when I heard "The Simpsons" was coming to DVD, and now that I have it I'm not disappointed. While watching these first episodes it becomes obvious just how far the show has come. Homer talks funny, Burns sounds very odd and the animation looks...unpolished. Ahh...the early episodes of a show. Some people say they don't want to buy the first season because it's crude, but it's not crude, it's classic.
The video isn't perfect, but it's the best presentation we'll ever see for the show. I found that the video really varied between episodes, and even between scenes. The colors jumped a round a bit during some scenes and I found it a tad distracting. In a few places I noticed areas of the image without motion would move a bit. Not sure what caused that. Getting close to my 32" Sony Wega XBR 400 I could also see some compression evident around the black lines of the characters and objects. Some of the colors seem blown out, and others seem dark and muddy.
How distracting is all the above? Not very. The show is still very enjoyable given the age of the material. Fox did a nice job.
The audio for "The Simpsons" relies heavily on the center speaker so the 5.1 track really doesn't shine. A few scenes make use of the rear speakers, but it's rare. I noticed in a few places that the audio wasn't synched with the mouths, but because it's animation it's hard to tell if this is the audio that's strayed, or animation that just didn't match up in the first place. Nothing outstanding in the audio department. There are also French and English Surround tracks included, and the commentary tracks mentioned in the "extras" section. Each episode also has English and Spanish subtitles.
I find that extras on a DVD release is what turns a DVD from a rental to a purchase and the extras on "The Simpsons" justify the purchase
Disc one contains the scripts for three episodes. When I read that scripts were being included I figured it would be text on the screen; nothing new there. Fox delivered more than I expected by providing scans of the actual scripts; scribbles and all. It's neat to read the comments and edits that were made to the scripts before they were made.
Disc two contains no extras.
Disc three contains the majority of the extras. Here we will find:
Never Before Seen Outtakes (5:01) - Watch this with and without commentary by Matt Groening, James L. Brooks, David Silverman (Director) and Al Jean (Writer). Listening to the commentary you can hear how disgusted the people involved are. It's funny to hear the gasps and comments they make throughout these outtakes. They aren't clean at all, but they're outtakes, not the actual show.
Animatic from "Bart the General" (1:51) - Here we see some early animations of Bart getting beaten by the school bullies while we listen to Matt and David talk.
The Making of the Simpsons: America's First Family (4:49) - A BBC program that looks at some of this history behind the show and how it affected TV viewers everywhere.
Foreign Language Clips (1:04 each) - Watch the same clip in French , Italian, Spanish, Japanese and Portuguese.
Tracey Ullman Short "Good Night Simpsons" (1:56) - There are 4 shorts from the Tracey Ullman show and boy, the characters look funny!
Albert Brooks Audio Outtakes from "Life on the Fast Lane" (3:43) - Albert Brooks talking while stills from the episode are shown on screen.
Art of the Simpsons (Still Images) - One drawing from Matt Groening's "Life in Hell" and 35 early sketches and drawings from "The Simpsons". I enjoyed seeing how some of the characters could have looked like if they used some of the earlier sketches.
"Some Enchanted Evening" Script (Still Images) - Exactly like the scripts found on the first disc.
All discs contain commentary for all the episodes. Matt Groening is joined by other members of the crew to pick apart the episode and laugh at the quality. Although I've only listened to a few episodes I found it fairly entertaining. There's some silence in a few places, but that's to be expected.
I should also mention the packaging is very cool. The 3 disc holder comes with 4 panels, one for each of the discs and another to hold an insert. The insert is nice because it gives you a summary of each show, the air date, writer, director, chapter stops and also notes on the episode including the characters that were introduced.
Go and pick this baby up. I know it's a little scary when you figure how many seasons have been made and the commitment you're making by starting the collection, but it's "The Simpsons" and it's been done right. There have been some reports of the extras not working properly on some players. The third disc appears to have "bubbles" on it and the content will pixelate and then lock up.