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The Simpsons Season 13 DVD Review
Posted by Ron Martin on 09.15.2010



Cast

Homer Simpson…..Dan Castellaneta
Marge Simpson…..Julie Kavner
Bart Simpson…..Nancy Cartwright
Lisa Simpson…..Yeardley Smith
Various…..Harry Shearer
Various…..Hank Azaria
Guest Voices…..Pierce Brosnan, Matthew Perry, Marcia Wallace, Jane Kaczmarek, REM, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, George Takei, Joe Mantegna, Paul Newman, Judith Owen, Richard Gere, Delroy Lindo, Ben Stiller, Jon Lovitz, Wolfgang Puck, Reese Witherspoon, Dennis Weaver, Frank Welker, Olympia Dukakis, Bill Saluga, Phish, Stan Lee, James Lipton, Robert Pinsky, Carmen Electra, Frances Sternhagen



Bashing The Simpsons just never seems to get old. Since the inception of other animated shows, critics and the internet have been fumbling over themselves to be the first to write the obituary for America’s first family of animation. The Simpsons rise as an American institution had been well documented, as has their fall from grace. Even the most hardcore Simpsons fans are willing to concede a drop in quality from their favorite show. Most critics and fans alike point to around the millennium as point where the quality began to fall. The Simpsons Season 13 takes in late 2001 to mid-2002 with 22 episodes. Let’s test this theory, shall we?



The always popular Treehouse of Horror series kicks off Season 13. The good news is that these Simpsons horror parodies are almost impossible to screw up. The key word here is “almost.” While Treehouse of Horror XII isn’t the worst episode ever, as far as Treehouse episodes go, it has to be one of the weakest. A gypsy curse on Homer, a HAL like machine in love with Marge and a Harry Potter parody leave us with a “that’s all we’re getting?” feeling about our annual Halloween special. The rest of Disc One is uneven fare. “The Parent Rap” is a solid episode where an unorthodox judge gives The Simpsons some creative punishment, but the award for best episode on the disc falls to “A Hunka Hunka Burns in Love.” The antics of Mr. Burns and Homer trying to woo a young police officer are at worst amusing, at most hilarious. Snake is always a welcome side character. The downside of the first disc falls to the unimaginative “Homer the Moe.” I suppose there’s only enough episodes you can go through before Moe’s has to modernize in the most hideous way. Just because you know its coming eventually doesn’t make it any better. Finally, “The Blunder Years” rounds out this disc as a bad parody of Stand By Me. Any moments this episode might have had are annulled by the constant annoyance of Homer screaming through the first half of the episode. If there had been a baby near me, I’d of punched it.

The second disc gives us old storylines repackaged. We get the nearly annual episode where Bart gets a girlfriend, but is oblivious. Homer and Marge’s marriage is tested twice on the same disc, both in ridiculous set ups. First Homer married some lush in Vegas but doesn’t remember it until she shows up at the door (okaaaay….?). Second, Marge’s billionaire high school sweetheart offers money to take her away for the weekend. These are yearly episodes just with different tempters each time. “She Of Little Faith” offers one of the worst ‘Lisa episodes’ which are already traditional channel changers. The two freshest episodes on the disc, “Jaws Wired Shut” and “Sweets and Sour Marge” are uneven at best, mediocre at worst.



Disc Three is the very definition of uneven. The disc starts strong with “The Lastest Gun in the West,” a satire of old west cowboys and the actors that played them – easily one of the best episodes of the season. Following that is “The Old Man and the Key” which for once puts Grandpa Simpson in a romantic relationship while still managing to poke the usual fun of old people with a bonus poke towards Branson, Missouri, a mecca for old people everywhere. From there it’s a huge drop off as we get another Lisa episode and one of the laziest television formats there is. “Tales from the Public Domain” is just classic stories that substitute the Simpsons and other denizens of Springfield for the characters in the stories. It seems The Simpsons have about one of these a season and I always feel like it’s just a lazy way out for the writers. The disc takes a huge jump up as we get the famous “Weekend at Burnsies” episode where Homer discovers the joys of medicinal marijuana. We go from that to the worst episode of the season. Remember when I said “Public Domain” was a lazy episode? How about a clip show? A freaking clip show on a cartoon?! Wow.

Disc four is the measure of mediocrity as the only standout episode if “I Am Furious (Yellow),” where Bart creates his Angry Dad comic. As for the rest of the disc, did we need to see Apu’s adultery or a screaming caterpillar that is just as annoying as Homer’s constant screaming earlier in the season. While the season finale, “Poppa’s Got a Brand New Badge,” is passable, it is far from memorable as season finales should be. Overall, this season never seemed to be able to get into a groove. Watching the series in the order they were presented, any momentum gained with a good episode or two was quickly squashed by a retread storylines, storylines no one cares to see play out or the dreaded “Lisa Episode.” Unfortunately the naysayers may have won out as there is more bad than good here. That being said, there are some ‘diamonds in the rough,’ so to speak that are worth a look.



Packaging
I don’t usually go out of my way to point out the packaging of a DVD set, but the packaging for this particular set is brilliant. There is a video arcade theme that runs throughout the set with characters from Springfield playing video games on both sides of the fold out cardboard set. Each DVD sports one of the Simpsons from the old school Simpsons arcade game on it. Brilliant. The brilliance doesn’t stop there as the episode guide takes the form of a video game guide and offers some of the most complete information about each episode I’ve ever seen. Each episode has a page full of what special features the episode has, scene selection titles and special guest voices. Even better are the DVD menu screens for each disc. Each contains a line of characters from the disc waiting to play a video game whether it be air hockey, Guitar Hero or Dance, Dance Revolution. There are two animation sequences for each scene with all the characters interacting with one another. Watching this is preferable to watching a few of the episodes.

Video
For those who worry about such things, the video is fullscreen 1.33:1

Audio
This is your standard 5.1 Dolby Digital, though it should be mentioned that a lot of the episodes can be switched to Spanish or French language.

Special Features
While not near as bare boned as the odd money grab, Season 20 set, the Special Features are somewhat lacking for a show with such a rich history. There are two features on Ralph, the cover boy for the set. The first is “Ralphisms” where Ralph says a bunch of stupid things. The second is sort of a history of Ralph throughout the years that uses almost all of the scenes already used in the previous special feature. Many of the special features are less than a few minutes long highlighting how certain animation was done or showing a Simpsons themed racing boat. There are two Special Features worth mentioning. One is a six minute journey through every Simpsons themed video game from The Simpsons arcade game in 1990 all the way up to 2010 including arcade games, home console games and handheld games. It’s really a neat concept and plays into the theme of the packaging very well. The second is the audio commentary for each episode. They talk about stuff I would have like to have seen as special featurettes such as how they dealt with 9/11, internet criticisms and creating new storylines.




The 411: This season is one of a couple of mediocre transition seasons. No longer will The Simpsons be the dominant week-in, week-out comedic force it was in the 90s. It's a new millenium and Season 13 is representative of the chaotic scatterbrained nature the show would take on from here on out. Off course, hardcore fans need this set. There's enough on here for the casual fan, but if you're looking for grade A special effects, you may want to just seek out individual episodes.
 
Final Score:  6.5   [ Average ]  legend





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