Will this be the season I join the ranks of The Simpsons fans in their yearly “this is the season where the show started going downhill” chant? Eh, maybe. But ultimately it doesn’t matter because this show is so timeless and such a staple of animation and the Fox network that regardless of what the show does it will always be regarded as a timeless classic. Tired and repetitious jokes that don’t work? Yeah, the show has plenty of those this season, but I’m still not willing to call the entire season a bust, as the first two discs alone don’t feature nary a bad episode in the entire bunch.
Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie return for more outrageous adventures when “The Simpsons” The Complete Twelfth Season arrives on DVD August 18th from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. The longest running animated series in television history, the latest DVD collection features all 21 classic episodes from the 2000-01 season including Bart’s boy band odyssey in “New Kids on the Blecch” featuring pop sensations N’Sync and a hilarious less-than-ordinary day for Homer, Bart and Lisa in “Trilogy of Error.” The season also boasts an impressive line-up of talented guest stars including Drew Barrymore, Edward Norton, Justin Timberlake, Stephen King, Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Roger Daltry and many more.
It’s obvious when The Simpsons started taking on more pop culture baggage, what with Britney Spears popping up in a past DVD set and now N’Sync debuting in what may be the seasons absolute worst episode (and possibly the series absolute worst episode, up to the twelfth season). Still it’s hard to begrudge the show—“Simpsons Did It” is a universal phrase in regards to plots that other cartoons try to come up with and whenever it is something they stumble upon that is slightly unique, chances are there is some variant that is deadly close in Simpsons history. That’s just the fact of the matter—twelve episodes into the series and it definitely was feeling its age and no doubt by the time it finally goes off the air we will have quite a cluster of mediocrity, but for the time being we can still enjoy those occasional good episodes. And even when The Simpsons is bad it’s usually just bad in regards to the quality of episodes that preceded it—not something that’s just piss poor.
Of course the series did creep into that territory in this season. I was genuinely blown away after popping in the first disc to see how brilliantly this season started out. The Treehouse of Horror XI was one of the most original and hilarious Halloween specials yet and I was laughing from start to finish. This continued on throughout disc one, with such great episodes as “Homer vs. Dignity” rounding out the disc and “The Computer Wore Menace Shoes” starting out the second disc with a solid effort right out of the gate. The rest of disc two was equally as impressive and the Emmy-winning episode “Homr” paired up with “Worst Episode Ever” round out an absolutely fantastic second disc.
But disc three and four are where things turned sour. “Tennis the Menace” had me grimacing from the start and all the way through the rest of disc three and four I found myself laughing only sparingly. I’m not sure how the first eleven episodes on this set were such finely crafted pieces of humor and the other ten turned to crap for the most part, but whatever the writers were going for just didn’t work most of the time and when they did they just barely delivered.
Of course this isn’t the first time I’ve met disappointment with The Simpsons. Recent seasons were filled with these bad episodes, but this last half of the season really just turned into a flaming ball of mediocrity at the end. Having said that I still enjoyed myself and enjoyed the episodes but not in the same way as I was with the first episodes of the season; this is to be expected in some regards I suppose, but it’s just funny how it was such a clean division between the good and the bad this season.
But in any case The Simpsons – The Twelfth Season is still something that’s Recommended for the fans of the show; the DVD presentation is, once again, just stellar and amazing through and through, so that’s something to look forward to more than dealing with sub-par episodes.
Good news and bad news: while the slimmed down packaging presented last season has carried over, the same cardboard fold out has remained as well. But as a way to better deal with this cardboard slipcase packaging they’ve added cut-out holes to aid in slipping the discs in and out easier—which, thankfully, works, as I wasn’t jamming my finger in that cardboard cave in an attempt to retrieve the disc. Inside the colorful (and quite beautiful) foldout are the four discs, each with their own unique disc art and a near thirty page booklet that details each episode, the special features associated with each and the chapter titles for the episodes. Exhaustive and incredibly well done, these sets are some of the finest examples of TV on DVD that there is.
And that example carries over into the absolutely flawless DVD transfers for these episodes. I’m used to watching Blu-ray now but the colors were so sharp and bright on these DVD transfers that I was genuinely amazed by how beautiful they looked on my TV. Paired with a DD5.1 mix that is mostly front focused but also not afraid to reach into the surrounds and thump its chest with the subwoofer when the occasion calls for it, the A/V presentation of this season is nothing short of fantastic.
And now…the extras:
•Commentaries featuring Executives Producers, Writers, Directors, Cast and many more
•Deleted Scenes with optional commentary by Executive Producer Mike Scully
•Illustrated Commentary: Lisa the Tree Hugger
•Animation Showcase: Treehouse of Horror XI
•Special Language Feature: Homer Vs. Dignity
•Special Introduction from Matt Groening
•Comic Book Guy: Best. Moments. Ever. featurette
•Illustrated Commentary: HOMR
•Animation Showcase: Day of the Jackanapes
•Illustrated Commentary: I’m Goin’ to Praiseland
As usual the commentaries on each episode are informative and fun to listen to, but, like the season, they do drag on a bit. Still they’re fun to listen to and the amount of deleted scenes and other goodies stashed onto the discs is a ton of fun to watch as usual. No matter how you cut it, this season comes Highly Recommended. There may be a big lump of misfired jokes and bad deliveries, but the wealth of deleted scenes, commentaries and the ever enjoyable intro by Groening are all a well worth checking out, diehard fan or not.
The Simpsons – The Twelfth Season is now available on DVD.