PictureIt's fair to say the Simpsons never looked this good on TV. Framed in its original TV aspect ratio of 4:3 and free of the voiceovers, censorial cuts, intrusive logos and poor transmission quality that normally plague the show on broadcast TV, it really gets a chance to shine on DVD and shine it does. Picture quality is excellent with block noise very rarely intruding into the picture. Colours are (very) bright and clear helping to bring the increased quality of the animation in this season to the fore. Whilst reviewing this set I had the opportunity to compare it with episodes running “live” on Sky TV. Besides the usual screen clutter of logos, squashed endings and manic voiceovers the difference was amazing with the disc version looking a thousand times better, highlighting the over compressed, softened and blocky appearance of the Sky version.
SoundThe Simpsons has carried a Dolby surround track for almost its entire run but, like earlier DVD releases, this set has had its soundtrack remastered to Dolby Digital 5.1. Although possibly considered overkill for such a release, the mix on offer is good but fails to use the enhanced split rears to much effect. Most episodes also carry Spanish & French soundtracks although these are limited to Dolby Digital 2.0 with a few carrying a language feature with the option of playing the episode in Japanese.
ExtrasWow, what else would you want on a Simpsons set? For starters disc 1 carries an introduction by Matt Groening (the creator of the show for those new to it) with each and every episode carrying a commentary with Matt Groening (the creator of the show for those of you who don't know), James L Brooks and various members of the cast and crew. Generally of a high standard, some of the commentaries are better than others. Shows such as “Homer The Heretic” have very entertaining tracks which show the amount of fun and enthusiasm the creators have for the programme, whilst the commentaries on some other episodes do tend to delve a little too deep into the self congratulatory area. “The Cajun Controversy” covers the events that followed the airing of “A Streetcar Named Marge” (which featured a song alleged to defame New Orleans) whilst ”Bush vs. Simpson covers the, bizarre, mini-feud that arose between the Simpsons and George/Barbara Bush (the Simpsons rebuttal to being compared with “The Waltons” is hilarious in itself).
“Special language feature” allows you to investigate the dubbing of Simpsons episodes into Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian and Japanese. “Animation Showcase” allows you to use the DVD angle feature to show the original storyboards, animatics of the show and the finished version in various combinations showing the development that the animation undergoes to reach the final episode.
“Deleted Scenes” unsurprisingly contains scenes removed from episodes relevant to each disc with most being only a few seconds long and not contributing much into the episodes in question. Interestingly one of the options present here allows the deleted scenes to be re-inserted into the episode with, or without, the commentary a nice touch. “Behind The Scenes”, “Promo Stuff” and “Commercials” contain a mix of adverts for the show itself, ads for various products and other promotional materials. Menus are all scored and animated, featuring characters from the show including Bart, Maggie, Marge and Homer all having several animated responses depending on which options are selected (although some may find their actions a little repetitive after the 3rd run through each menu). On the whole a very nice set of extras, well done Fox.
VerdictExcellent. If you're a Simpsons fan it has to be a must-buy. If you're not a Simpsons fan then this is the ideal place to start.
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