Site created 12/15/97.
review added: 9/21/01
The Simpsons: The Complete
1989-1990 (2001) - 20th Century
review by Todd Doogan of The
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/A/B
Specs and Features
Approx. 286 mins (13 episodes at 22 mins each), NR, full frame (1.33:1), 2
single-sided, dual-layered discs (containing 6 episodes each) and 1
single-sided, single-layered disc (containing 1 episode and bonus materials),
custom gatefold/slipcase packaging, audio commentary for each episode (by Matt
Groening along with some combination of the following: James L. Brooks,
directors David Silverman, Rich Moore and Wesley Archer, and writers Jon Vitti,
Jay Kogen, Wallace Wolodarsky, Al Jean, Mike Reiss and George Meyer), scripts
for Some Enchanted Evening, Bart
the Genius, Bart the General
and Moaning Lisa, outtakes from first
attempt of Some Enchanted Evening (with
optional commentary from creator Matt Groening, producer James L. Brooks,
director David Silverman and writer Al Jean), animatic from
Bart the General narrated by Matt Groening
and director David Silverman, The Making of The
Simpsons: America's First Family featurette (6 mins), foreign
language clips from Life on the Fast Lane
in French, Italian, Spanish, Japanese and Portuguese, Good
Night Simpsons short from The Tracey
Ullman Show, audio outtakes of Albert Brooks from
Life on the Fast Lane,
Art of The Simpsons galleries featuring
Matt Groening's Life in Hell and early
sketches and drawings, Easter eggs, program-themed menu screens with music,
scene access (6 chapters per episode), languages: English (DD 5.1 & 2.0) and
French (DD 2.0), subtitles: English and Spanish, Closed Captioned
Well... it was a long time coming, but they're here. What's here you ask?
The Simpsons - one of the great social
commentaries on life in America is finally on DVD, and I for one couldn't be
happier. Sure, it's only one season, but it's one season closer to getting each
and every season on DVD. Plus, it's an entire season - not some lame ass "best
of" crap like what Warner's going with Friends
and South Park. Nope, it's the first
complete season of The Simpsons on DVD and
it's in my grateful hands.
Let's run through the episodes, shall we?
Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire (7G08) -
Our first introduction to the Simpsons' very own show was this Christmas
Special, broadcast in 1989. A trip to the mall finds Bart getting a tattoo
inscribed "Mother". Of course, kids just don't have tattoos, so Marge
has it removed, which wipes out her special savings. Homer's Christmas bonus
will just have to be used sparingly... but what happens when Homer's bonus
doesn't happen? Homer has no choice but to take a part time job as a Santa Claus
at the mall. But that nets him a lousy $13 after training, taxes and the suit.
No worries though, $13 still buys a bet at the local dog track, right? Even that
has it's trials, and when Homer bets on a loser like himself, he can only reap
the rewards when the losing dog becomes a part of the Family - Santos L. Halper
a.k.a. the new family pet, Santa's Little Helper.
Bart the Genius (7G02) - School days are
here for The Simpsons. Martin Prince turns Bart in for spraying school yard
graffiti, on the day of an aptitude test. To even the score, Bart ends up
switching tests with Martin and, thanks to his answers, Bart's deemed a genius
by the never-to-be-seen-again school psychologist.
Homer's Odyssey (7G03) - There's nothing
more proud for a pop than when his son takes a class visit to his work place.
But on the day of Bart's visit, Homer loses his job at the power plant. When
life hands him lemons, Homer learns that suicide might be the best answer. Tying
a boulder to his waist, Homer heads to the Springfield Bridge. But when his
family tries to stop him, they're almost hit by a speeding car. This inspires
Homer to live and put an end to safety violations in the town. Of course, Homer
gets a little carried away.
There's No Disgrace Like Home (7G04) -
It's picnic time at stately Burns Manor. And with Mr. Burns focusing on family
unity this year, Homer tries to make his wacky family look more like a loving
unit. But Marge's latent alcoholism and Bart and Lisa's bratty behavior forces
Homer to seek family counseling with Dr Marvin Monroe. And to come up with the
$250 fee (double your money back if he fails to put your family back together)
Homer sells the family television and a resentful family submits themselves to a
hysterical shock therapy session.
Bart the General (7G05) - Nelson Muntz,
the greatest school bully Springfield has ever known, shakes Lisa down for her
cupcakes and Bart comes to her rescue. But Bart is no match by himself and gets
a smack down day after day until he decides to fight back. In comes Grandpa, and
a master plan to bring the kids together to declare war against the neighborhood
Moaning Lisa (7G06) - Lisa's got the blues
and bad. Her bratty brother pesters her, her dad's an uncaring oaf and her
mother gave her last cupcake away. But when she meets blues man 'Bleeding Gums'
Murphy on a bridge, she realizes that music is her outlet.
Call of the Simpsons (7G09) - The
neighbor, Flanders, gets a brand new RV. Homer feels that he has to keep up, so
he goes out and buys the biggest motor home he can afford. Turns out he can't
afford much. So off he and the family unit go, over the river, through the hills
and then off a cliff. And things don't get much better than there.
The Telltale Head (7G07) - Poor Bart,
trying to impress a new group of roughneck friends, he does the unspeakable and
lops off the metallic statued head of the town icon, Jebediah Springfield. The
mob mentality of Springfield kicks in and a hunt for Bart is on. Can he find a
Life on the Fast Lane (7G11) - In one of
the first season's best loved episodes, Marge celebrates her birthday with a
special present from Homer - a bowling ball that he really intended for himself.
Too bad for him, because Marge actually decides to learn the game. Her
instructor: Jacques, the lane lover who sets his sights on the high haired
Homer's Night Out (7G10) - One of Homer's
co-workers is having a bachelor party and Homer is the life of the party. But
Bart is testing his new spy camera at the restaurant dad's partying at, and
snaps a picture of Homer and a dancing girl named Princess Kashmir. When the
picture makes its way around town, Homer has to show Bart that women aren't
objects, but this act of moral cause only gets Homer into deeper water.
The Crepes of Wrath (7G13) - Take one
cherry bomb, add in Skinner's mother and Bart... and you get a one way trip to
France. At least in this case. Bart becomes a sort of indentured
servant/exchange student and the Simpsons get a Albanian boy who just happens to
be a high level spy who's using Homer to gain knowledge of nuclear power. Oh,
Krusty Gets Busted (7G12) - One of the
best Simpsons episodes ever is a mystery
really. Did Springfield's lovable clown Krusty really rob the Kwik-E-Mart, or is
he being set up. Homer is the witness and as much as he hates to bring Bart's
hero down, he believes it's his civic duty. But Lisa and Bart go undercover and
reveal the truth. And it's not pretty.
Some Enchanted Evening (7G01) - The story
on this episode's making is better than the episode itself, so be sure to give
the commentary a listen. Marge gets fed up with Homer's ignoring her needs and
calls local radio psychiatrist Marvin Monroe to complain. Homer hears it at work
and sets things right with a night on the town. But the babysitter they get is
none other than Ms. Botz - the Baby Sitter Bandit. Lisa, Maggie and Bart have to
outwit her and save the day. This was the last episode of season one, but the
first episode produced. Again, see commentary for why.
The Simpsons' first season was pretty much
a mulligan season. Most of the character development is totally off from what is
going on currently. A lot of the character designs are way off (meaning, that
they've changed a lot in later seasons) and the personalities aren't quite there
yet. Homer is a big oaf, but he's more mean and concerned about his standing in
Springfield. Nowadays, Homer is a lovable idiot who couldn't give a rat's butt
about what people in the town think. Lisa isn't portrayed to be as smart as she
is now. There are some hints of it here and there, but it's not quite there yet.
Of course, there's the awful animation from Klasky-Csupo, that looks really bad
when you compare it to the newer episodes. But when you think about it, it all
had to start somewhere, right?
The quality of this DVD set, is a mixed bag actually. Video-wise, we have some
good, some bad and some confusing. The good, is that the colors are all very
well represented. These are some bright and shiny discs. Yellows are very solid,
blues are as blue as the sky and all the other primary colors used in the show
are well represented. The bad, is that the blacks are lacking and some heavy
edge enhancement is used here and there. There are artifacts from digital
compression throughout the video on these episodes. Just look at the credits for
proof of that. The confusing, is a weird phenomenon with a blurring that goes on
in place of fades. When the picture starts to fade, right before it goes black,
it just blurs. It has to be production based, but it's really odd the way it
shows up on these discs. Overall, the video here is fair - a good attempt. It's
not a home-run, but it'll do for this season.
The audio, on the other hand, would make Homer give a big "Woo-hoo!"
There's a very nice Dolby Digital 5.1 track on each of these episodes and they
all sound great. There's a little bit of play in the rear channels, clean and
centered dialogue and an overall crisp and clear sound stage. This season wasn't
the most creative audio-wise, so this is more a nice hint that the upcoming
seasons will really rock the house down. You'll also find the original Dolby
Digital 2.0 audio here, as well as a 2.0 French track for our French-Canadian
So what about the extras? Mmmmm. Extras. There's not a whole not of meat on
these discs, but there's a couple of things. First up, the first and second disc
both have scripts. Disc One has Bart the Genius,
Bart the General and Moaning
Lisa and Disc Three has Some Enchanted
Evening. This is neat, as there are doodles denoting that they were
probably culled from creator/producer Matt Groening's personal library, but this
is a DVD-ROM extra don't you think? I mean - it would be even cooler to have the
option to print these scripts to read. Having them is great, but Fox could have
gone the extra mile.
Next, you'll find that every episode on the DVD set has scene-specific
commentary by the production crews of the various episodes. You'll find folks
like Matt Groening, producer James L. Brooks, director David Silverman and
writers Al Jean, Mike Reiss and Jon Vitti to name a few. There's a lot of
information on these commentaries, but most of them are really just these guys
coming back together to watch the shows after 10 years. Still, I listened to
just about every episode's commentary and some of it is pretty funny. The
must-listen track is Some Enchanted Evening
on Disc Three. You'll learn a thing or two with that one.
The remaining extras are also on Disc Three. We get about five minutes of
outtakes from Some Enchanted Evening as it
originally came back from the animators. It's ugly, but entertaining
historically. You can watch the clip with or without commentary by the creators.
The video quality is third generation video and not very good, but it's still
wild to see. There's an animatic (preliminary animated drawings) from the
Bart the General, presented with
commentary from Matt Groening and director David Silverman. It's pretty short,
but clues us into the development of the show, at least in the first year. For
those looking for a documentary, there's Making of
The Simpsons: America's First Family, which is a 5-minute,
behind-the-scenes piece that will surely disappoint those looking for something
more substantial. This is studio fluff, through and through.
Cute, but also fluffy, is a short selection of foreign language clips from Life
on the Fast Lane in French, Italian, Spanish, Japanese and
Portuguese. It's wacky, and the first thought on my mind was, how many languages
do some of the cast members speak, because there are a few that are dead on with
the original voice actors. You also get ONE (and only ONE) of the original
Tracey Ullman Show shorts, which is where
The Simpsons got their start. The one
we're given is Good Night Simpsons. I
understand that legal rights issues prevented the rest from being included, and
that's a real shame. Still, the one you gets perfectly illustrates just how far
the show has come. A brilliantly funny audio clip edit of some improv bits done
by Albert Brooks, who played Jacques in Life on the
Fast Lane, can also be heard on Disc Three, with appropriate stills
from the episode. And completing the disc are some art selections. There's one
comic from Groening's Life in Hell strip,
as well as a ream of early sketches and production drawings that give us a look
at the progression some of the characters went through from early concept to
final art. Oh... and also on Disc Three are two Easter eggs. One is an ABC News
report on Simpsons T-shirts being banned
from schools and the other is a selection of magazine covers featuring
The Simpsons is really the only TV show I
actually bother to watch. So having it on DVD is great for me. It's not the set
I wanted, nor is it a sign of good things to come. Hopefully, Fox will get more
interactive (especially some animated menu screens at least!) with these shows
and give us a kick-ass set for The Simpsons: The
Complete Second Season and later releases. And with my luck, my kids
will be completing my Simpsons collection
as I sit in an old folks home writing angry letters to TV producers.