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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 7/25/02

The Simpsons: The Complete Second Season
1991 (2002) - 20th Century Fox

review by Jeff Kleist of The Digital Bits

The Simpsons: The Complete Second Season

Program Rating: B+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/B/B

Specs and Features

634 min (22 episodes total), NR, full frame (1.33:1), 4 single-sided, dual-layered discs (no layer switch), custom Digipak foldout packaging with slipcover, audio commentary on all episodes (with Matt Groening, Sam Simon, James L Brooks, Brad Bird et al), video interviews with Matt Groening and James L. Brooks, video of Bart on the American Music Awards (with optional commentary), the Do the Bartman and Deep Deep Trouble music videos (with optional commentary), video interview with David Silverman on the creation of an episode, The Simpsons at the Emmys, 3 Butterfinger commercials, production design drawings, international clips, program-themed interactive menus with sound and 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

The Simpsons return in their long awaited, often delayed second season on DVD. Four discs hold 22 episodes and a decent amount of extras. Some of the show's true classic episodes are featured here, including The Simpsons Halloween Special (later renamed Treehouse of Horror I), Bart the Daredevil, Itchy, Scratchy and Marge and One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Bluefish. Overall, the packaging is very similar to the first season of The Simpsons, with the NOTEABLE exception of the menus. You must click your "enter" key 3 times and sit through 3 annoying animations that are supposed to be funny to get to the final menu screen. When you do, you get no background music until you enter an individual episode's menu. Please Fox: un-fix what wasn't broken. This is downright needless and annoying.

The video on these discs is improved over the first season, and the interlacing artifacts so prevalent on animation have been nicely reduced. Of course, symptoms of the show being finished on videotape are still prevalent, with an overall softness and slight loss of detail present across all four discs of the set. Still, it still definitely bests watching it on broadcast television by a noticeable margin. Some artifacting is visible in shadow detail on occasion, but it's nothing too objectionable. Overall, Fox maintains their usual high quality television set standard.

The English Dolby Digital 5.1 track has a marked increase in fidelity over the English 2.0, but outside of some music montages like the main titles, I didn't notice much of a difference in channel separation compared to the Pro-Logic mix. Dialog is clear and the music is crisp. Especially appreciated is the deep, but not overblown, LFE channel. The Simpsons has won many awards for its musical scores, and these DVDs are the perfect place to enjoy them.

Coming to the extras package, this season is a bit more robust than Season One. Audio commentary is included on every episode, and the participants seem more comfortable in their roles this time around. There are more episode specific memories and factoids that they share, my personal favorite being that most "fugu" (blowfish) served in restaurants is farm raised... and therefore has not eaten the coral that makes them poisonous.

Next in the lineup are 2 awards show clips - the first is Nancy Cartwright (the voice of Bart) in a horrific costume at the American Music Awards. On the commentary track you can almost hear them covering their eyes commenting how horrific it is. It's truly painful, but I'm glad they included it on the set. Thankfully, that mistake was not repeated when The Simpsons where on the Emmys - they were animated and superimposed on the stage and thus fared much better. Next are 3 commercials for Butterfinger candy bars that I'm sure most US-based customers have seen many, many times (but given how many have been produced over the years, it's nice to go back and revisit them). Also included are many pages of production and character design sheets. There are several promotional shorts featuring interviews with James L. Brooks and Matt Groening, and a 10-minute documentary on The Simpsons production process. Overall, the real meat of this set is in the commentaries, and since most of you probably know these episodes verbatim, I don't think you'll go wrong by doing your first viewing with commentary turned on. Personally, I would really like to see some voice-actor interviews, but the producers have stated that they want to keep the actors out of the extras, so I guess we have to respect that. You'll also find several foreign language clips. If anything, one would hope that these examples of bad dubbing (included on many of Fox's TV DVDs) should serve as an example of why one should NEVER watch anything dubbed.

Finally, we have the 2 Simpsons music videos from the Simpsons Sing the Blues album, the first (and thankfully last) time they tried to do something original on their CDs. There's some great audio commentary here by Brad Bird (The Iron Giant), who started out on The Simpsons and ended up directing the Do the Bartman video on one of the tightest schedules ever.

Overall, there's some great vintage material here, but I can't help but feel that there could have been some more. How about some of the deleted scenes that are mentioned in the commentaries? How about a look at the Korean end of the production, or a segment on how animation is done? Given that we have a minimum of 11 seasons still coming to us, I suppose there's plenty of time for those more in-depth extras to surface.

The Simpsons: The Complete Second Season is overall a superior experience to the first season, but some nagging problems really keep it from attaining high-end perfection. To Simpsons fans, this one is a no-brainer. And I doubt a few little pockmarks are going to stop the world from flocking to this set of early episodes from one of the best shows on television.

Jeff Kleist
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