It was nearly a year ago today that I received The Simpsons: Season 12 DVD
set to review and I was excited as I read this list of episodes and got excited...only to start re-watching them and be utterly disappointed. There's been talk for nearly a decade of how the writing of the show had gone way down in quality, with settling of the debate of exactly where the downward slide began. I don't know either but I can vouch that by the twelfth season it was in full effect.
So, there was no reason to think that #13
(as in season 13
) would be
the lucky number where the Simpsons
would stop being a sad and desperate imitation of it's former glorious self. Especially when, even though I watched them all when they was originally aired in their Sunday night time slot, I looked at the list of episodes and didn't recognize a single one of them! I had to go through it all again because i realized I'd only "watched"
them before--- and by that I mean: the show was playing in the background but wasn't interesting enough to pull my attention away from the internet, dinner, balancing my checkbook or whatever else I was doing at the same time.
A bad omen to a season of the Simpsons
is when their season opener,
the once-sure fire Treehouse of Horror episode is a dud. In "Treehouse of Horror XII"
opens with "Hex and the City" – A gypsy's curse turns Homer into a walking bad luck charm that makes monsters of his family members and kills off his best friends.
As these segments go, this one's full of missed opportunities, half-thought ideas and jokes that fall flat. I was pretty tempted to just skip to thenext full episode after this. But then came "House of Whacks"
– Marge buys aHAL-style computer system for the house and picks the Pierce Brosnan personality, who immediately takes a shine to Marge and attempts to murder Homer -
and it was pretty good, followed by "Wiz Kids"
– A Harry Potter parody where Bart and Lisa go to a school for wizards, and Lord Montemort (Mr. Burns) uses Bart to capture Lisa's magic.
Not a great segment but decent enough for the Harry Potter ribbings.
It was the next episode that set the general tone for the rest of the season:
"The Parent Rap"
- Bart gets in trouble for joyriding in a police car, but feels confident he'll be let off the hook by Judge Snyder. However, Snyder goes on
vacation before ruling his verdict and gets replaced with a coldhearted
judge named Constance Harm who blames Homer for being a negligent father and sentences him and Bart to be tethered together.
This episode typifies the general complaints you'll read online.
There's such a scrambling to get something funny onscreen that the Simpsons are written to do and say things that are completely out of character of what's been built up over the last decade just for the sake of a sight gag here and there. And it's not as if there haven't been past shows that bent the rules for high concepts ("Monorail!
) but they would stay consistent with the theme. Homer goes from being a lovable boob to a straight-up asshole with every scene change. It'll be like you
might as well be watching an episode of The Family Guy
then the next second there's a serious moment that adds to the Simpson's cannon. One important reason this episode can't be blown off if because introduces the recurring character of Judge Harm
, with a stellar performance by Jane Kaczmarek
. But for all the sacrifices, the total of genuine laughs beyond a chuckle is very low.
Other episodes of season 13 include:"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""Half-Decent Proposal""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""Gump Roast""I Am Furious Yellow""The Sweetest Apu""Little Girl in the Big Ten""The Frying Game""Poppa's Got a Brand New Badge"
I will say that two of my stand out favorites are "Blame It On Lisa"
- When Homer gets the family's telephone service cut off for refusing to pay for calls made to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Lisa confesses that she was the one who called Rio after befriending an orphan who ended up missing. In response, the Simpsons travel to Brazil
to look for him.
and "Tales from the Public Domain"
- When Homer gets a notice from the library that he has a book of classic tales that's years overdue, he finds it on the shelf and reads three stories: The Odyssey (where Homer and his bar buddies try to get home after fighting the Trojans), Joan of Arc (where Lisa leads the French against the British with the help of God), and Hamlet (where Bart
tries to kill Moe after Moe kills Homer in order to marry Marge)
The worst is "Gump Roast"
which is just a clip show and a pretty lame one at that.
guest voices for this season include Pierce Brosnan
, Matthew Perry
, Jane Kaczmarek
, Jess Harnell, R.E.M., Phish, George Takei
, Julia Louis-Dreyfus
, Paul Newman
, Richard Gere
, Ben Stiller
, Jon Lovitz
, Wolfgang Puck, Dennis Weaver
, Frank Welker
, Olympia Dukakis
, James Lipton
, Robert Pinsky, Carmen Electra
, Frances Sternhagen
returns as "Fat Tony" and Stan "the Man" Lee
Something you can't knock the Simpsons for (with the notable exception of the bare bones 20th Season blu-ray
the colossal amount of extras they pack in these sets. Every episode
gets a vigorous commentary track by Matt Groening and plenty of the
other creators. I was also impressed by a feature choice that flashes a
pair of scissors in the corner to allow you to watch a deleted scene
inserted in proper chronology of the story. Other features include:
- Intro: "A Token from Matt Groening"
- Animation Showcases w/ storyboards and animatics
- Featurette: "Ralphisms"
- Featurette: "The People Ball"
- Featurette: "The 13th Crewman"
- Featurette: "Blame it on the Monkeys"
- Featurette: "The Games"
- Featurette: "The Sweet Life of Ralph"
- Extra: "And Then There Were Menus"
- Sketch Galleries
- Special Language Feature
- Easter Eggs
If you've already decided you're going to buy The Simpsons: The 13th Season
getting it on Blu-ray may not be the best way to go. Just as withthe switch from vinyl records to compact disks, we gained better quality sound but gave up the artful sleeves and packaging; This set comes in the standard blue blu-ray case with the same episode guide booklet as the DVD set, but you don't get all the great accordion style foldouts. Furthermore, the thirteenth is the last one where they used traditional cell animation, so the blu-ray doesn't give you that extra enhancement of the picture that you'd expect from digital.
The Simpsons:The 13th Season on Blu-ray
can be purchased here