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? Unlike the last season that hit DVD (the twelfth season, not the twentieth), this thirteenth season didn’t start out strong and end weak—instead it started out OK, hit a few pot holes in the road and finished strong.
The longest running comedy, animated series and prime-time entertainment in television history, “The Simpsons” has taken home the Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program 10 times during its remarkable run. The hilarious thirteenth season features 22 episodes including two noteworthy standouts: the Simpsons’ trip to Brazil in “Blame It On Lisa” and Homer’s foray into medicinal marijuana in “Weekend at Burnsie’s.” Once again, a talented line-up of guest stars lend their voices including Ben Stiller, Reese Witherspoon, Richard Gere, Pierce Brosnan, Matthew Perry, R.E.M. and the legendary Paul Newman.
While we’re back to the one-season-a-year release schedule it seems, at least we’re back in the proper order and with the usual cornucopia of extras for this season. It was strange that as I watched this season I kept waiting for the inevitable wall of stupidity that it ran into last season; I started out absolutely loving season twelve, only to find out it decline rapidly at the end there. With four holdovers introducing this season and another influx of guest stars, I expected the worst from the start of this set, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was in no way nearly the disaster I thought it’d be.
Don’t get me wrong, I defend this show at every turn—it’s not nearly as bad as people wail on it constantly for being, but it did see a definite decline in these teen years. Having said that this thirteenth season had maybe six or seven bad episodes (that includes an absolutely terrible one – “The Old Man and the Key”…seriously, how the hell did that get approved?), but the remaining lot was all pretty decent. “Brawl in the Family,” “Jaws Wired Shut,” “Half-Decent Proposal,” “I Am Furious (Yellow),” “The Sweetest Apu,” and “Papa’s Got a Brand New Badge” are definite contenders for some of the most truly classic, hilarious and genuinely entertaining Simpsons episodes ever. While it’s far from a flawless season, it is nonetheless quite the entertaining batch of episodes.
The full breakdown of the seasons twenty-two episodes includes:
Treehouse of Horror XII
The Parent Rap
Homer the Moe
A Hunka Hunka Burns in Love
The Blunder Years
She of Little Faith
Brawl in the Family
Sweets and Sour Marge
Jaws Wired Shut
The Bart Wants What it Wants
The Latest Gun in the West
The Old Man and the Key
Tales from the Public Domain
Blame It On Lisa
Weekend at Burnsie’s
I Am Furious Yellow
The Sweetest Apu
Little Girl in the Big Ten
The Frying Game
Poppa’s Got a Brand New Badge
Truth be told no matter which season I watch of this show lately, I end up with the same feeling at the end of it. The series may be wearing out its welcome for some and I doubt I’ll ever re-watch an episode of the series ever again (there are simply too many episodes—while I can easily pick out my favorite Futurama episodes by name, I’ve no such relationship with this series…it’s like picking out your favorite number when it can go from one to infinity), but for me The Simpsons will always be a reliable series to go to for laughs no matter what. This thirteenth season definitely wasn’t flawless by any means, but it’s still a Recommended outing for those like me who have yet to experience it (at least in its entirety—some of these I remember from syndication…although now that we’re into episodes that aired from 2001 – 2002, I may have actually seen some of these as they aired…I don’t remember anymore).
So here we are with our first feature-packed release of The Simpsons on Blu-ray. Interesting they went with the final season that used traditional cel animation, but whatever…had to start somewhere I suppose. The packaging is similar to the DVD set in appearance, but underneath the thick cardboard reflective foil slipcover is a standard width Elite Blu-ray case that houses the three discs for the set. The whole thing came shrinkwrapped (slipcover included), so you won’t have to worry about getting one without.
Video is an AVC (@27mbps) encoded 1080p 1.33:1 effort and…well, it definitely looks good, but I’m questioning why they’re putting it out on Blu-ray. The show’s always looked good on DVD and since it’s not a show that was made for HD until season 20 (hence the Blu-ray release for that), it seems odd to offer this up…but here you have it! The video looks good, although I can’t tell if it’s merely been upscaled or not—if they pulled the same thing they did with the first half of the season 20 set then it was made to look a lot less obvious (though that may have to do with the cel animation?). Audio is a DTS-HD MA 5.1 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. Overall the A/V presentation of this season is nothing short of fantastic, although having been able to compare the two I’d say you’d be fine off with just the DVD release if you want to save a few bucks and maintain season continuity on your DVD shelf.
Extras are bountiful as always and include:
•Audio commentaries on every episode featuring executive producers, writers, directors, cast and notable guest stars on select episodes including Stan Lee, Joe Mantegna, Delroy Lindo, Robert Pinsky and others.
-A Token from Matt Groening
-The People Ball
-The 13th Crewman
-Blame It On The Monkeys
-The Sweet Life of Ralph
•Animation Showcases for eps. The Parent Rap and Sweet & Sour Marge
-Animatic with episode PIP
-Storyboard with episode PIP
•Special Language Feature
While the non-commentary extras aren’t quite as plentiful as they usually are, the fact we once again get a full gambit of tracks for every episode (even the abysmal ones) is the major plus here. Fans will obviously be the main focus for these tracks, but newcomers should enjoy them just as much.
Overall another Recommended season set. As long as they keep piling the commentaries on, I doubt these sets will ever not be something fans want to own.
The Simpsons – The Thirteenth Season is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.