Arriving just in time for the holidays, Fox Home Entertainment unleashes The Simpsons: The Complete Ninth Season to eager fans everywhere. Including the monumental (at the time) 200th-episode, this “Lisa”-themed collection offers a host of great episodes and not-so-great episodes.
This set will divide many fans. Some see this as the first official sign that the show is heading downhill, and it’s not hard to blame them. There are some seriously weak episodes in this collection, as well as episodes that fizzle out before the end credits roll. The tone of the series is changing, and we get the sense for that especially in this episode. Thinks become more and more loose and free-wheeling as staples of the series began to give away for more wacky or zany plot elements and ideas. That’s not to say every episode on this collection is like that, far from it, but influences are creators being brought on to the series (for example) can readily be seen. This set includes the following episodes:
“The City Of New York vs. Homer Simpson,” “The Principal And The Pauper,” “Lisa’s Sax,” “Treehouse Of Horror VIII,” “The Cartridge Family,” “Bart Star,” “The Two Mrs. Nahasapeemapetilons,” “Lisa The Skeptic,” “Realty Bites,” “Miracle On Evergreen Terrace,” “All Singing, All Dancing,” “Bart Carny,” “The Joy Of Sect,” “Das Bus,” “The Last Temptation of Krust,” “Dumbbell Indemnity,” “Lisa The Simpson,” “This Little Wiggy,” “Simpson Tide,” “The Trouble With Trillions,” “Girly Edition,” “Trash Of The Titans,” “King Of The Hill,” “Lost Our Lisa,” and “Natural Born Kissers.”
It’s hard to really rate the quality of the episodes. This season presented such a divide among fans, many claiming that we were seeing the beginning of the end for The Simpsons, and it’s hard to disagree with that. Episodes like “The Trouble with Trillions” and “The Principal and the Pauper” just don’t play right with me. I think here we do see the show start to break away into a more wacky setting, with extreme situations or just over-the-top and ridiculous ones. I don’t think I’ll ever enjoy “Das Bus” or how it ends.
I can attest, and I’m sure all will agree, that this season is not as strong as the previous one. It’s a weaker season, no question. That doesn’t mean it’s a horrible season by any means. There’s some real classic episodes in here, like the “sort of banned but not really” episode “The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson.” Not only is that one of my favorite episodes, but it also shows that yes, other people besides myself find Mountain Dew to be a disgusting, disgusting drink. “The Cartridge Family” brings Homer and guns together with excellent results. Those are just a couple of my personal favorites, mainly due to the ‘down to earth’ (for lack of better expression) tone they manage to keep.
And, like any release of The Simpsons on DVD, we get a healthy dose of extras. We see some of the regular extras popping up on this collection once again, but we do get a few notable surprises here. Since Fox knows this is what everyone wants to see, the sneek peek of The Simpsons Movie is on the first disc, before the main menu boots up. It offers a new, unfinished scene, which I won’t spoil for readers here. I will say that it’s . . . interesting. Other extras include:
–The Simpsons Movie Exclusive Sneak Peak
-A Riff from Matt Groening
-Commentaries on every episode
-Deleted Scenes: “The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson,” “Lisa’s Sax,” “Treehouse of Horror VIII,” “The Two Mrs. Nahasapeemapetilons,” “Lisa The Skeptic,” “Bart Carny,” “The Joy of Sect,” “Das Bus,” “The Last Temptation of Krust,” “Dumbbell Indemnity,” “Lisa The Simpson,” “This Little Wiggy,” “Simpson Tide,” “Girly Edition,” “Trash of the Titans,” and “King of the Hill”
-Season 9 Featurette
-Animation Showcase: “Principal & The Pauper,” “Lisa The Simpson, Act 1”
-Illustrated Commentary: “All Singing, All Dancing” – by Matt Groening, Yeardley Smith, Mike B. Anderson, Pete Michels
-Illustrated Commentary: “Lost Our Lisa” – by Matt Groening, Yeardley Smith, Mike B. Anderson, Pete Michels
-Deleted Scenes Intro by: Mike Scully
-Deleted Scenes Gallery with optional commentary by: Matt Groening, Mike Scully, Josh Weinstein, David Mirkin, Al Jean, Steve O’Donnell
-Promotional Spots: Butterfinger “Alien” May 1998, Butterfinger “Hit a Homer” May 1998, Butterfinger – “Philosophy” July 1998, CC’s Chips Australia – “Parachutist” – June 1998, CC’s Chips Australia – “Homerdini” – June 1998
-Sketch Gallery (10 Images)
-Special Language Feature: 4 extra languages in: Polish, Portuguese, German, Japanese
As you can see above, we have a hefty collection of extra features. The commentaries are just as packed as they usually are, now more than ever with the occasional inclusion of John Schwartzwelder. He does add a few notable bits to the commentary, but given how packed each episode is with discussion, there just seems to be so much going on. The commentaries are losing a teeny bit of their charm though, as various behind the scenes tidbits and such become less exciting, and origins behind particular episode don’t seem all that fantastic anymore. I guess it has to do with more of the episodes themselves than that participants, but as the quality begins to thin out, episode-wise, I’m sure the extras will follow. Still, these commentaries are worth listening to for the die-hard The Simpsons fans.
Other extras include a nice array of promotional spots, plus a bizarre little “Moment with U2” extra. It’s funny, don’t get me wrong, and I’m glad it’s included in here for completion’s sake.
Deleted scenes are always a bonus to include, as we get to see the best and worst of what was left on the cutting room floor. And, like with every season, there’s some stuff definitely worth dropping, be it an unfunny gag or tired joke. There’s some gold in there, too. You can never go wrong with the gags presented in the “Treehouse of Horror” episodes which were cut, most of which are pure gold.
Also, Fox has included some collectible cards in the packaging itself. These cards include new images and some of their classic homages that were published in Rolling Stone magazine (i.e., the Beatles homage, the Nirvana homage, etc). The packaging itself is a musical theme, with Lisa dominating the set. The DVDs themselves look like classic or artsy album art, and the episode listings on the back (and the booklet within) are presented like tour listings and rock magazine articles. It’s a great themes for this collection, which happens to include some very fine Lisa Simpson-themed episodes.
It’s another packed collection from Fox Home Entertainment who rarely misstep with their The Simpsons releases. While, yes, we do wish these would be released more frequently, they do always deliver in the end. I can’t think of being disappointed yet in these collections. The audio and video are the best they can be for the material presented (not perfect, but better than the television broadcasts), and the extras really compliment the collection. For fans of The Simpsons, casual or hardcore, this set is easily Recommended!