HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: The Simpsons: The Thirteenth Season

Discussion in 'TV on DVD and Blu-ray' started by Matt Hough, Aug 21, 2010.

  1. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    The Simpsons: The Thirteenth Season (Blu-ray)
    Directed by Mark Kirkland et al

    Studio: Twentieth Century-Fox
    Year: 2001-2002
    Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 1080p AVC codec
    Running Time: 491 minutes
    Rating: TV-14
    Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Spanish
    Subtitles: SDH, Spanish


    Region: A
    MSRP: $ 59.99



    Release Date: August 24, 2010

    Review Date: August 21, 2010





    The Series

    4/5




    Matt Groening’s The Simpsons was once TV’s most buzzworthy show. Hilarious, outrageous, and daring, it was the show people were always talking about the day after it aired: the very definition of a water cooler entertainment. Around season six or seven, however, the show lost some of its coolness factor. It was still as delightful and hilarious as ever, but times change and some folks began drifting away to other programming. The season box sets of The Simpsons enable many of us to refamiliarize ourselves once again with the show, and this latest edition brings us the show’s thirteenth season broadcast in 2001-2002.




    The world’s most dysfunctional cartoon family that started out rather inauspiciously on The Tracy Ullman Show all those years ago enters its thirteenth season firing on almost all cylinders: the show still has the wherewithal to be hysterical, to be biting, to be topical, often within the same episode. From parodies of the Harry Potter books and Stand by Me to digs at Buddism, Forest Gump, the Irish, medicinal marijuana, Brazil (which caused the show and its network all sorts of problematic threats), and Weekend at Bernie’s, The Simpsons continues to be sometimes diabolical but always lovable even with the occasional dud episode.




    I’m not sure what kind of ritual sacrifice had to be offered up to the gods of inspiration for the brilliant casting of the show’s core actors, but time has proven over and over what masterful actors they are and how lucky the show is to have them. Dan Castellaneta’s well meaning but often befuddled Homer, Julie Kavner’s steadfast Marge, Nancy Cartwright’s mischievous Bart, Yeardley Smith’s incisive Lisa, and the versatile Harry Shearer (Burns, Smithers, Skinner, Flanders) and Hank Azaria (Moe among so many others) create brilliant characterizations show after show and manage to find new nuances in these personas that keep audiences coming back season after season. The writing, of course, by a crackerjack team of artists manages to keep the show timely on the one hand and effortlessly respectful to its television forefathers on the other. And the guest stars who come in and do voices, sometimes as themselves and sometimes playing outrageous characters, are always memorable. This season, Paul Newman, Dennis Weaver, Reece Witherspoon, Pierce Brosnan, Matthew Perry, Ben Stiller, Joe Mantegna , Richard Gere, Carmen Electra, Frances Sternhagen, and Delroy Lindo are only some of the masterful actors who have lent their talents to this inspired show.




    Each of the core actors gets episodes that spotlight his or her specific character from Marge’s desperate acts to find solace from Homer’s incessant snoring to Lisa’s search for a religion that means something to her, Homer’s withdrawal from sugar and the dire consequences which ensue, Mr. Burns’ search for love, Moe’s enthusiasm over the startling renovations to his fabled establishment, the return of the Vegas wives, an unforgettable adventure with Grandpa and Bart in Missouri, and my favorite episode of the season, a three part parody of the stories of Odysseus, Joan of Arc, and Hamlet as only these characters could enact, you know The Simpsons at its best is as strong as ever.




    Here are the twenty-two episodes contained on three discs in the thirteenth season box set:




    1 – Treehouse of Horror XII


    2 – The Parent Rap


    3 – Homer the Moe


    4 – A Hunka Hunka Burns in Love


    5 – The Blunder Years


    6 – She of Little Faith


    7 – Brawl in the Family


    8 – Sweets & Sour Marge


    9 – Jaws Wired Shut


    10 – Half-Decent Proposal


    11 – The Bart Wants What It Wants


    12 – The Latest Gun in the West


    13 – The Old Man and the Key


    14 – Tales from the Public Domain


    15 – Blame It on Lisa


    16 – Weekend at Burnsie’s


    17 – Gump Roast (the dreaded clip show)


    18 – I am Furious (Yellow)


    19 – The Sweetest Apu


    20 – Little Girl in the Big Ten


    21 – The Frying Game


    22 – Poppa’s Got a Brand New Badge





    Video Quality

    4/5




    The Simpsons didn’t switch over to widescreen presentation until the middle of its twentieth season, so here the aspect ratio is 1.33:1 and is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. As always, the show is wildly colorful, and the deep, rich hues and impressive line structures of the animation come through usually with definite clarity and impressive levels of saturation and without any problematic aliasing (though the 480i clips in some of the bonus features are rampant with it). There may be a bit of noise with the reds, but it’s fleeting, and there are momentary shots where part of the image seems a bit out of focus. You’ll occasionally see some minor banding, too, but again, it’s only there sporadically and not as a general rule. Each episode has been divided into 6 chapters.





    Audio Quality

    4/5




    The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix is surprisingly immersive for a television cartoon series. The music is constantly filtered throughout the soundfield, and the sound design makes sure that occasional sound effects and incidental dialogue pans out through the fronts and rears as appropriate. You’ll also be impressed with the power of the LFE channel on occasion when things blow up or when music takes on a heavy bass beat.





    Special Features

    4/5




    Every episode contains an audio commentary with a large number of the episode’s creative personnel in attendance. This doesn’t make for the most organized or informative of discussions, but the comments are occasionally enlightening especially as these commentaries were recorded recently as these creative people look back on their previous work. Only occasionally do actors such as Delroy Lindo, Dan Castellaneta, James Lipton, Stan Lee, or Joe Mantegna take part.




    All of the featurettes are presented in 480i.




    “A Token from Matt Groening” is a throwaway introduction to the season by its creator. It runs for 2 minutes.




    “Ralphisms” is a 2 ¾-minute montage of sayings, expressions, and doofus mutterings by the show’s resident nerd.




    There are animation showcases for two of the episodes: “The Parent Rap” and “Sweets & Sour Marge.” These consist of sequences from the episodes shown in storyboard and animatic form with the episode’s full animation in a PiP window. “The Parent Rap” runs 7 ¼ minutes while “Sweets & Sour Marge” runs 6 ½ minutes.




    The premiere episode “Treehouse of Horror XII” can be viewed in additional multiple languages including German, Czech, Japanese, and Portuguese.




    “The People Ball” gives some interesting background information on how that particular animated sequence was created in this 1 ¼-minute vignette.




    “The Thirteenth Crewman” shows the installation of a Bart Simpson decal and sail on a sailboat. It runs 1 ¾ minutes.




    “Blame It on the Monkeys” briefly details the trouble the network had with violent reactions against the Brazilian-themed episode “Blame It on Lisa.” It runs 1 ¾ minutes.




    “The Games” is an 8-minute montage of many of the various arcade and video game incarnations of the characters from the show (mostly Bart) spanning the years 1991-2009.




    “The Sweet Smell of Ralph” is another montage in tribute to the character of Ralph culled from episodes spanning the thirteen year run of the series. It runs 6 ¼ minutes.




    A montage of sketches in gallery form shows pencil art drawings of characters from season thirteen. The featurette runs 6 ¼ minutes.




    There are four Burger King commercials (each running around 21 seconds) along with the foreign language commercial for Sabritas.




    The menu for each episode offers the viewer the option to view the episode with deleted scenes which had been completed added back into the show. (Sixteen episodes contain deleted scenes. A scissor icon appears in the episodes to denote the cut footage, usually only seconds long.) Deleted scenes, some finished and some lacking final coloring, have also been collected in a bonus feature on disc three and can be viewed with optional commentary. They run a total of 14 ¾ minutes.




    There are three easy-to-find Easter eggs, two celebrating Simpsons landmarks in magazines and a credit page for the disc release.




    The enclosed 27-page booklet which was so much missed in the 20th Anniversary Edition of the show makes a welcome return here chock full of information about each episode.





    In Conclusion

    4/5 (not an average)




    The Simpsons will be beginning its twenty-second year on the air come fall, an industry record for a prime time entertainment series, and it’s gratifying that the show is now being offered in high definition looking close to its best. America’s favorite cartoon family gets a nice Blu-ray box set with a generous selection of bonus material and the booklet which was much missed in the last release. In short, recommended!






    Matt Hough


    Charlotte, NC
     
  2. TravisR

    TravisR Studio Mogul

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    Here's where to find the easter eggs on the Blu-ray. All are very quick deleted scenes (except where noted):

     

    Disc 1

    The Parent Rap: 1. push right from 'Play Episode With Commentary' 2. push right from 'Play Episode With Commentary' then press down, left or right

    Homer The Moe: push right from 'Play Episode With Commentary'

    Brawl In The Family: 1. push right from 'Play Episode With Commentary' 2. push right from 'Play Episode With Commentary' then press down, left or right

    on the main menu, press right from 'Extras' (The Village Voice cover featuring Homer)

     

    Disc 2

    Jaws Wired Shut: push right from 'Play Episode With Commentary'

    The Bart Wants What It Wants: push right from 'Play Episode With Commentary'

    The Lastest Gun In The West: push right from 'Play Episode With Commentary'

    on the main menu, press right from 'Extras' (TV Guide cover and paragraph on why The Simpsons is one of the top shows of all time)

     

    Disc 3

    Weekend At Burnsie's: 1. push right from 'Play Episode With Commentary' 2. push right from 'Play Episode With Commentary' then press down, left or right (an interview with Relix magazine with Al Jean about this episode)

    The Sweetest Apu: 1. push right from 'Play Episode With Commentary' 2. push right from 'Play Episode With Commentary' then press down, left or right (a faux-interview with Krusty and James Lipton as written by The Simpsons team for TV Guide)

    Poppa's Got A Brand New Badge: 1. push right from 'Play Episode With Commentary' 2. push right from 'Play Episode With Commentary' then press down, left or right

    on the main menu, press right from 'Extras' (Blu-ray credits)
     

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