Another year, another Simpsons set. Just to clear something up, Fox isn't dragging their feet and holding up these releases. The problem is that the same people involved with the show are the same people that are heavily involved in the DVDs, and since the show is still going strong, the DVDs are a lower priority.
For those of you who have been living in a cave, The Simpsons started as a series of animated shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show. A quick hit, it was spun into its own show, premiering on December 17, 1989. Since it's debut, the images of Bart, Lisa, Maggie, Marge and Homer have graced everything; t-shirts, hats and mugs (to name a few), and have spawned video games and toys. They have secured their place in pop culture.
I think there have been minor variations in all The Simpsons sets released, and this one includes some more changes, both good and bad. The booklet included with the set is a thing of beauty; it contains information about every episode and special feature, and includes a handy legend that works extremely well. Now for the bad part. Every time you select a menu item a little animation plays, and it's freakin' annoying! Yes, you can click the "next chapter" button to skip it, but I shouldn't have to click 2 buttons to select 1 thing. I think these are the most annoying menus I've seen in a long, long time.
Animated and colored by hand, the video quality on this release doesn't stand up to recent animated fare such as Futurama or Family Guy. The picture seems a bit soft, and there are specs of dust that are visible in places. While it's not as nice as the computer-colored shows, these episodes look good. There's an option to play all the episodes with the commentary on or off, and there is a chapter set right after the opening of the show.
The audio for The Simpsons relies heavily on the center speaker, so the 5.1 track really doesn't shine. The opening of the show makes nice use of the rear speakers, but for the rest of the episodes they're fairly silent. You can always count on a Simpsons episode to have at least once excellent directional audio effect, and those sound great on DVD. Along with the English Dolby Digital 5.1 track, French and Spanish surround tracks are also provided, as well as English and Spanish subtitles.
A Word From Matt Groening (2:00)
Matt Groening introduces the fourth season.
Every episode contains commentary from the cast and crew of the show. If you have time you should listen to these, but it's a lot to get through.
EP 1 - Matt Groening, Al Jean, Mark Kirkland, David Silverman
EP 2 - Matt Groening, Al Jean, Mike Reiss, Jeff Martin, Jon Lovitz, Hank Azaria
EP 3 - Matt Groening, Al Jean, George Meyer, Jim Reardon
EP 4 - Matt Groening, Al Jean, Mark Kirkland, Jeff Martin
EP 5 - Matt Groening, Al Jean, Jay Kogen, Wallace Wolodarsky, Jon Vitti
EP 6 - Matt Groening, Al Jean Mike Reiss, Rich Moore
EP 7 - Matt Groening, Al Jean, Bill Oaklet, Josh Weinstein, Jeff Lynch, Jim Reardon
EP 8 - Matt Groening, Al Jean, Mike Reiss, Conan O'Brien, David Silverman
EP 9 - Matt Groening, Al Jean, Jon Vitti, Jim Reardon
EP 10 - Matt Groening, Al Jean, Jeff Martin, Mark Kirkland
EP 11 - Matt Groening, Al Jean, Mike Reiss, Michael Carrington, David Silverman
EP 12 - Matt Groening, Al Jean, Mike Reiss, Conan O'Brien, Rich Moore, David Silverman
EP 13 - Matt Groening, Al Jean, Mike Reiss, David M. Stern, Jim Reardon
EP 14 - Matt Groening, Al Jean, Mike Reiss, Jon Vitti, Jeff Lynch
EP 15 - Matt Groening, Al Jean, Frank Mula, Wes Archier, David Silverman
EP 16 - Matt Groening, Al Jean, Mike Reiss, David M. Stern, Jim Reardon
EP 17 - Matt Groening, Al Jean, Jay Kogan, Wallace Wolodarsky, Mark Kirkland
EP 18 - Matt Groening, Al Jean, Mike Reiss, Jon Vitti, Jeff Lynch
EP 19 - Matt Groening, Al Jean, Mike Reiss, Adam I. Lapidus, Rich Moore
EP 20 - Matt Groening, Al Jean, Mike Reiss, Jeff Lynch, David Silverman
EP 21 - Matt Groening, Al Jean, Bill Oakley, Josh Weinstein, Jim Reardon, Jeff Lynch
EP 22 - Matt Groening, Al Jean, Mike Reiss, David Silverman
Art & Animation (1:16:40)
A Streetcar Named Marge
Animation Showcase - Choose between storyboards, animatic and completed episode - 9:38
Animatic - 17:07
Animatic with Illustrated Commentary - 17:07 commentary over the animatic
Homer's Triple Bypass
Animation Showcase - Choose between storyboards, animatic and completed episode - 8:16
Animatic - 8:15
Animatic with Illustrated Commentary - 8:25 commentary over the animatic
Itchy & Scratchy: The Movie
Animation Showcase - Choose between storyboards and completed episode - 7:52
The Cajun Controversy (2:13)
Writer Jeff Martin talks about the controversy surrounding a song in "A Streetcar Named Marge."
Special Language Feature - Kamp Krusty
You can watch "Kamp Krusty" in English, Spanish, French, Brazilian Portuguese, Italian, Japanese or Castilian Spanish. Pretty neat!
Bush vs. Simpson (5:11)
Jim Brooks talks about Barbara Bush's comments that The Simpsons is the dumbest thing she had ever seen, and the followup letters and comments.
Promotional Stuff (13:55)
A featurette that gives a brief rundown of the show, the characters and some of the stories.
Deleted Scenes (2:31)
Homer's Triple Bypass
Cops in the Coffee Shop (0:09)
Homer in the Ambulance (0:12)
Krusty Cannon (0:09)
Homer Eating Pizza (0:17)
The Usual Rejection Letter (0:20)
I Will Learn to Ski (0:24)
Richy & Kathy (0:11)
Dynamite in Cat (0:20)
Sit & Play with My Teeth (0:16)
Nickel for the Trolley (0:13)
Unforgettable Classics (0:33)
Beach-Homer with Crabs - Butterfinger (0:18)
The Big Steal - KFC (0:34)
It's hard not to like this show. The Simpsons has been a part of my TV schedule for so long, I can't imagine a Sunday night without them. It was great that Conan O'Brien was involved in a few commentary tracks on the set. He's definitely gone on to bigger and better things, something the participants rib him about. Years ago I downloaded a small clip of "Whacking Day" in QuickTime format off a BBS (back before all the file-trading apps). That episode holds a special place in my heart because it was one of the first times I had seen digital video playing on my computer, plus it's a cool episode. There's also "I Love Lisa," featuring the lovable Ralph. Man, that kid is messed up!
This is a great show, but the animations in the menus are annoying.