Another year, another home video season release for The Simpsons. However, with this one, Fox has changed up a couple things. First, thanks to the show switching over to high-definition half way through this twentieth season, we’re getting our first season collection on Blu-ray released simultaneously with the DVD. Secondly, and most disappointingly, we’re being spared the usual heaping of bonus features that each season has been bestowed since Fox Home Entertainment first started issuing these sets. Is The Simpsons: The Complete Twentieth Season worth picking up based on the episodes below, especially in pristine 1080p quality? Well, keep reading!
In January 1990 television history was made as households across the country were introduced to a one-of-a-kind family whose outrageous antics and wild behavior made them an institution of prime-time television and a pop culture staple over the next two-plus decades. Now, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment celebrates this historic milestone with The Simpsons: The Complete Twentieth Season, marking the show’s first time ever in high-definition. A show that has remained culturally significant and hugely popular with audiences for over 20 years, the latest DVD collection features every outrageous episode from the 2008-09 season, including the family’s hilarious trip to Ireland, Homer and Ned’s turn as bounty hunters and Bart trading lives with a multi-millionaire lookalike of himself.
After twenty years, The Simpsons keeps churning out stories. And, well, not all of them are winners as we see in this latest season release. By no means is that a reason to already dismiss this show – every show has weak and strong episodes – but I’m sure more than a few old-school fans of the series have already opted to ignore this season. For those with more of an open mind, or fans of the current episodes, there’s plenty to enjoy with this set. Yes, there actually is! This show is well-known for its blood-thirsty fanbase and, to be quite honest, the show doesn’t deserve all the slamming it gets, even if the show lacks the sharp wit of its former glory.
Moving on, as for the actual episodes featured in this release, the twentieth season of The Simpsons isn’t all that bad, with the show getting what seems to be a second wind thanks to its new high-definition revamp. This season is seems as though each of the core cast get a moment to shine. The character of Lisa Simpson is undoubtedly pushed to the front of the stage quite a bit this season, getting more than a couple episodes focusing on her. Not all winners mind you, like the misguided “Mypods and Broomsticks,” but she get a healthy dose of screentime which can unfortunately makes her quite grating on occasion. Still, the majority of the episodes this season find a nice balance with a handful either truly surpassing the normal standard or sinking far below standard quality. “Gone Maggie Gone”, a pedestrian take on the also-pedestrian The DaVinci Code is a snore-fest from beginning to end, for example, but “Eeny Teeny Maya, Moe” is a must-see. “How the Test was Won” is also another stand-out worth revisiting.
Some of the episodes listed in the synopsis above, like The Simpsons going to Ireland or Bart switching places with a rich counterpart, are also, sadly, some of the more weaker installments of the season. Why must nearly every show have to do the whole “The Prince and The Pauper” thing? And the episode with Ned and Homer as Bounty Hunters? About three years too late and not that well, regrettably. I know, I know, it sounds like I really dislike this season but. In all honestly we get a pretty fair divide of quality. I’d cite this season as a good 60/40 or 70/30 in terms of good episodes versus bad. This is one of the stronger seasons to date, don’t get me wrong, despite prevalence of some less than reputable installments.
I’ve also noticed that, this season, The Simpsons is taking a few more steps into more risqué territory. It’s quite easy to understand why some viewers may find The Simpsons stale, especially with the wealth of edgy programming out there. And, as much as this show played a pivotal role in the creation of many other prime-time (and beyond) toons, it seems as though we’re seeing a bit of the reverse here. There’s some surprisingly crud jokes that I would never thought I’d see on The Simspons. Maybe the show is trying to become more “of the times” by going a bit more blue? That’s the impression I get from some of the episodes on display here.
21 episodes from the 20th season of The Simpsons are included in this release. The featured episodes are “Sex, Pies, and Idiot Scrapes,” “Lost Verizon,” “Double, Double, Boy in Trouble,” “Treehouse of Horror XIX,” “Dangerous Curves,” “Homer and Lisa Exchange Cross Words,” “Mypods and Broomsticks,” “The Burns and the Bees,” “Lisa the Drama Queen,” “Take My Life, Please,” “How the Test Was Won,” “No Loan Again, Naturally,” “Gone Maggie Gone,” “In the Name of Grandfather,” “Wedding for Disaster,” “Eeny Teeny Maya, Moe,” “The Good, the Sad, and the Druglym” “Father Knows Worst,” “Waverly Hills 9-0-2-1-D’oh,” “Four Great Women and a Manicure,” and “Coming to Homerica.”
Oh, and yes, the excellent new opening title sequence looks great and will definitely wear out the pause button on your remote. We all went through it frame-by-frame when it originally hit last year as The Simpsons entered high-definition, but it looks so much better here that it warrants another closer inspection.
Admittedly, it’s a good collection of episodes. There are downers, sure, but nearly all televisions show havea tarnished record of the occasional subpar episode. Here is no different. Yes, it can be tiring at times to see Homer take on yet another job but, occasionally, they manage to play with the formula enough to make it not as stale. And, I have to admit we get some real classics this season, one of the standouts being “Eeny Teeny Maya, Moe.” A great episode that harkens back to some of the earlier efforts of the series. That being said, it’s a worthy batch of show. Not all are homeruns, mind you, but I’m sure some can still elicit some chuckles. That being said, I have to rate this collection of The Simpsons as Recommended, though there are some reservations to be had. Don’t expect a homerun for each episode, but be prepared to be surprised with the quality of more than a few of them.
Quickly releasing the last season of the show on home video to tie into the current 20th Anniversary celebrations for The Simpsons, Fox Home Entertainment has provided a rather sharp looking package for The Simpsons: The Complete Twentieth Season. But despite how sharp it may look, this two-disc set is surprisingly light on extras, nearly bare-bones actually, but we’ll get to that in a bit.
Let’s dive right and take a gander at the audio and video quality, shall we? The Simpsons began broadcasting in HD part-way through this season, meaning we get a good chunk of the season in actual widescreen 1080P with the rest simply upconverted from standard definition and in 4:3. Not surprisingly, there’s a big difference between the regular 4:3 episodes and the widescreen episodes. The high definition episodes really pop off the screen here, and the new opening sequence accompanying these episodes, look fabulous. The upconverted episodes do look good, yes, but don’t match the actual high-definition episodes. Still, save for the expected color banding and aliasing, the video quality is great.
While there’s a noticeable difference in video quality between the standard definition upconverted episodes and the high definition episodes, the audio is pretty standard across the board. Surprisingly, we get a great 5.1 DTS-HD mix here, a mix that actually makes use of all channels. Not consistently, true, but there are times when the odd sound effect will move through the speakers for a nice immersive effect. It’s rare, yes, but sounds great when it does. Outside of that, everything still sounds great, as crystal clear and balanced as one could expect.
So, the extras. Usually, when I review a The Simpsons release, it takes me quite a while to thumb through all the bonus content. Admittedly, I enjoy every minute of the wealth of material plastered into these released by Fox Home Entertainment. However, with The Simpsons: The Complete Twentieth Season there’s none of that. The bonus features for this release, the first Blu-ray episode collection for The Simpsons, released to celebrate their 20th anniversary, took me less than five minutes to go through. And when I say “features” I should actually say “feature” since all we get is a 3 ½ minute look at the recent The Simpsons 20th Anniversary Special – On Ice! In 3D!. Yeah. That’s it.
No commentaries, featurettes, deleted scenes, easter eggs or gags, none of it. It’s very apparent this release was rushed out to coincide with the 20th anniversary celebration for The Simpsons but, still that doesn’t seem like a valid enough excuse. Even the cover art, a great spread of nearly all the characters from the show, is just repurposed artwork from years ago. It just feels like a promotional release to plug the show. It’s a considerable let down when you think about how well Fox has handled every season release for The Simpsons so far. I’m sure we’ll get a re-release of this down the line in a few years, but for now, I’m pretty disappointed in what we get here. For all the big moments this collection is set to represent, there’s absolutely zilch to show for it. Just 3 ½ minutes.
So, with absolutely no bonus materials but an admittedly good main feature, what is one to do about the The Simpsons: The Complete Twentieth Season Blu-ray release? Depending on the price you can find it for, and the uncertainty on whether or not we’ll get this season re-released with extras, it is worth picking up based on the main feature alone. In fact, if you’re so hesitant, there’s always the DVD release for this season, as well. I’ll give it a cautionary Recommended with reservations. The Simpsons looks stunning in this release and while every episode may not be a homerun, it’s still a nice collection of episodes worthy of at least one spin. I was initially hesitant of how episodes of The Simpsons would look on Blu-ray, but I’m pleasantly surprised with the vibrancy on display here, and the new life it gives the show.
The Simpsons: The Complete Twentieth Season is now available to own on Blu-ray and DVD.