The Complete Fourth Season
Release Date: June 15, 2004
Running Time: 506 minutes
Sound:English Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Stereo, & French Dolby Stereo
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 (original intended display)
This is an approved GUEST review for Home Theater Forum
[c]I dedicate this review to my Dad, who gave me the gift of an out
of whack sense of humor – Happy Father’s Day, Dad.[/c]
Episodes Guide: Kamp Krusty - Bart and Lisa get to go to Kamp Krusty, but once they get there they discover it's not all that they expected. A Streetcar Named Marge - Marge tries out for and becomes the star of a local production of A Streetcar Named Desire. (This episode contains the controversial song about New Orleans) Homer The Heretic - Homer decides that Sundays are for football and vows never to attend church again. Lisa The Beauty Queen - Lisa competes to be the next Little Miss Springfield. Treehouse Of Horror III – An evil Krusty doll stalks Homer, A King Kong parody, and Bart reviving zombies are the three stories in this season's Halloween special. Itchy and Scratchy: The Movie - Bart gets punished and is told that he is never allowed see the long awaited new Itchy and Scratchy movie. Marge Gets A Job - Marge takes a job with Homer at the nuclear plant to pay for much needed house repairs. New Kid On The Block – Bart gets his first crush as a teenage girl moves into the Simpson’s’ neighborhood. Mr. Plow - Homer buys a snow plow to become a local hero and his friendship with Barney is challenged when he tries to run Homer out of business. Lisa's First Word - Homer and Marge tell the story of Lisa’s first words as the family encourages Maggie to utter any sound that doesn’t resemble the pacifier sucking sound. (You will notice that when Maggie does actually throw out her first word, it sounds an awful lot like Elizabeth Taylor) Homer's Triple Bypass - Homer goes bargain shopping for the cheapest surgeon when he begins to have heart problems. Marge vs. The Monorail - Springfield is sweet talked into spending its newly-obtained three million dollars to build a monorail. Selma's Choice – Selma gets a taste of parenthood when she takes Bart and Lisa to an amusement park. Brother From The Same Planet - Bart gets fed up with Homer’s parenting skills and goes to a local organization for a new father. To make things even, Homer decides he will get a new son. I Love Lisa – Ralph grows a crush on Lisa when she choo-choo-chooses him on Valentine’s Day. Duffless – Homer must give up beer after receiving a DWI. Last Exit To Springfield - The power plant attempts to do away with its dental plan. Homer fights to save it because Lisa is in need of braces. So It's Come To This: A Simpsons Clip Show - The family recounts past experiences as they worry about Homer, who is in the hospital after a beer can explosion. The Front - Bart and Lisa become Itchy and Scratchy writers by using Grampa’s name. Whacking Day - Bart and Lisa work together to get rid of local holiday that has become an unnecessary tradition. Marge In Chains - Marge accidentally shoplifts and is sentenced to a month in jail. Krusty Gets Kancelled - A new puppeteer creates Gabbo and Krusty's ratings drop like a rock.
The Episodes: I try not to comment much on the individual episodes, as my task is to review to the entire collection. Also, having been a fan from day one, I find myself quite biased when discussing the quality of what this show provides. So, if you watched and laughed the first time, you will do the same as you watch again and again. If you weren’t a fan the first time around, then you probably aren’t reading this review anyway. I will point out, however, that some of my favorite episodes on this are: Homer’s Triple Bypass, Kamp Krusty, and one of my all time favorites, Mr. Plow. Also of note, Lisa’s First Words is on this season’s set and it is also the first season with Writer and Producer, Conan O’Brien. It is my belief that some of his episodes were amongst the funniest ever. And by the way, see what happens when you leave a show like The Simpsons; you become a nobody and people forever ask, “what ever happened to that guy?” (Sorry, I let my sarcastic humor get away from me there).
Video: The video transfer is subject to individual expectation & comparison to that expectation. If you are anticipating the clarity of a CGI full length film done by Pixar, then you will be greatly disappointed. However, if you are somewhat realistic in your expectation that they sharpened up the original hand drawn art that was still being done in 1992, then you will be pleased. I must point out though, that this type of artistry doesn’t transfer without its imperfections. There is a bit of shadowing in some scenes as well as distortion of color. But, it’s not enough to be distracting to the viewer. In fact, it’s my opinion that this leads to some of the charm of the hand drawn television cartoon. And let’s face facts, the people who will be purchasing this DVD collection are fans of the show and this is a slight step up from how the show looked when they became fans. So, in my eyes, as long as there is an improvement of any kind, you can’t hold the constraints of the original art against the product.
Audio: As has been the case in each of the season’s DVD sets, the audio in this set is magnificent. Not having the luxury of a cable company that provides 5.1 surround sound as I watch the new episodes broadcast, I am only excited by the thunderous bass sounds and dynamics in the opening theme sequences. Further, the center channel distribution during the episode’s dialogues makes for a clearer understanding of what is being said. When listening through the traditional 2.0 stereo sound television, the tracks maintain their original quality. However, in some cases, there is an extended depth that comes with the remixed 5.1 surround. For example, in the Kamp Krusty episode, when Bart opens his locker to reveal the jungle inside, the background sounds are much clearer than are in the syndicated rebroadcast.
Menu: Thank goodness!!! Nice and easy!!! As some will recall from my review of the season 2 set, I was disappointed with just one aspect of the menu; the opening introduction. For those who are not familiar with the Season 2 DVD set, the menu opens up with a series of characters with the wrong heads. You select a menu option and the bodies switch around, only to end up again under the wrong heads. This happens for three sequences before the heads line up with the correct bodies and the user is able to select episodes and features from the menu. It took me 5 or 6 viewings before I realized that you can select the MENU button on your remote control and this whole annoyance is bypassed. In season 3, they went the complete opposite by eliminating the menu animations and having a dark screen with a list. Well, I am pleased to say that there are no shenanigans on this season’s menu and a happy medium was found. This year’s menu is easy to navigate and is very thorough. It’s clever and cute in its animations, but it isn’t annoying. Also, (I must add after making such a stink in my Season 2 review) I am also pleased to see that they kept the “Play All” feature on each disc.
Extras: This set is loaded with extras. For starters, there is a commentary on each episode. A couple of notable guests who appear in the commentaries are Jon Luvitz and Conan O’Brien. The commentaries are the same types that have been in each of the last three sets; interesting, informative, but very very dry in humor. Also, I must make note for the parents that because the commentaries are recorded without edit, there are some PG-13 language uses and references. Some of the other extras that can be found in this set are picture-in-picture art and animation storyboards, an explanation of the controversy with New Orleans, and you can watch the Kamp Krusty episode in any one of 4 languages; Brazilian Portuguese, Italian, Japanese, or Castilian Spanish (this is in addition to the standard offerings of English, Spanish, and French). There is an explanation of a letter that was sent to then First Lady Barbara Bush from our favorite concerned mom; Marge Simpson, a promotional short that includes an explanation of the show and characters from the mind of creator, Matt Groening, and a series of commercials for various products starring the Simpsons characters. But, my favorite extra on this box set is the deleted scenes. Deleted scenes are one of the first things I look for when I purchase a new DVD and this one contains several. The deleted scenes are from the Homer’s Triple Bypass & The Front episodes. You can either watch the scenes one at a time as they were edited out or you can also watch the episode with the scenes placed back in. Either way, I love having scenes that I have never seen before. My only complaint would be that there are a list of deleted scenes and no “Play All” feature. (Yes, I am going to get on my “play-all soap box again). You have to watch them one at a time and be brought back to the menu screen to get to the next one. It’s quite time consuming for such short scene clips. Finally, no Simspons season set would be complete without the guide that comes in the sleeve of the packaging. This guide tells you a little bit about each episode, what it has for extras, and who worked on the project. If you keep it near you while viewing the discs, it also explains what features are hidden in each episode as you watch. Overall a great set of extras in this package.
Overall Rating: The thought provoking humor that has become synonymous with The Simpsons is alive and well in this DVD set. Each member of the family can watch and laugh at a different level. I have watched through the set twice now (and some episodes more than twice) and I find myself laughing at the same bits over and over again. The commentaries are informative and interesting (but, I always add that I wait for Matt Groening to be funnier during the commentaries). The writing becomes more creative during the 4th season with the clear change in writing styles from the addition of new blood to the writing team. Add to this a newly remixed soundtrack and throw in a fistful of extras and this DVD set is a must for anyone who is a Simpsons fan. In closing, I will once again point out to those who have the pull at FOX that a full year is just way too long to wait for these sets. I fear that long before we reach the final season (season 16 is in the works now), DVD will no longer be the format of choice. I have been told that the length of time may have something to do with getting the players lined up for the commentaries. If this is the case, I say do fewer commentaries. It is gallant that we have insightful verbiage for each and every episode, but I would trade that luxury for quicker turnaround in a heartbeat. All in all, this is the best complete Simpsons DVD set to date and I highly recommend it.