The Simpsons are the kings of prime time animation. Lasting an astounding twenty-three seasons and counting, The Simpsons is an institution that has spanned generations. So the collecting of these episodes is something that fans have enjoyed since the earliest days of TV on DVD. Fox has been releasing these sets for over a decade now and we find ourselves in an interesting era of the show.
Most people consider these early and mid 2000s seasons of the show to be the worst era during the impressive run. The show seemingly was stale and the spark was missing. At the end of the day the show survived and has since rebounded to become a relevant, often hilarious show.
One of the things I was most excited about when I dug into this set was the plethora of special features. The Simpsons sets have always set the standard for insightful and worthwhile special features, anchored by the amazing cast and crew commentaries that have accompanied every single episode since season one, making over 300 episodes worth of anecdotes, insights and inside knowledge of the creation of an institution.
The Show Itself:
Season Fourteen represents one of the lesser seasons for the acclaimed show. While it is true that there are some absolute gems in this set, there are also more than a couple duds. While I am not one of the people who thinks the show outright sucks in this era, I do understand the reasoning. The show was missing a spark, and seemed to be treading water. I would defend this season though, because it has some of the better mid era episodes, and even a couple that rank among my favorite ever. So lets take a look at the best three episodes and the single worst and you will see what I mean.
The Dad Who Knew Too Little: This episode had a lot of the heart that defines the most classic episodes of The Simpsons. When Homer realizes he doesn’t know anything about Lisa he hires a private eye to give him all the info he needs on his daughter. The writers have often credited Homer’s immense likability on the fact that his family loves him, and he loves them. It is that love that lets you buy Homer going through such stupid lengths to please his daughter. The episode’s wackier elements are even resolved by Homer proving to Lisa in his own dumb way that he does pay attention to what Lisa does. It was a sweet ending to a sweet episode and was very much a highlight of the season.
Barting Over: The “300th” episode, actually the 302nd, was great for the sheer pomp and circumstance of what 300 episodes means. It represented the longevity of the show and this episode really showcased a lot of elements of what makes a great Simpsons episode. It is a family conflict episode, which are often among the better episodes of the show, and it was also a big guest star episode. This show has always had a knack for getting a lot of of guest star episodes and this was one of the better ones. Tony Hawk played himself and actually was great in his role. Blink 182 also stopped by, but they were only there for a second and no one likes Blink 182 anyway, so moving on.
Scuse Me While I Miss The Sky: This episode had a different structure than most, it’s revolved around a documentary filmmaker who has come to Springfield elementary to film a new doc about the kids. Looking at the worlds of Bart and Lisa from the eyes of a filmmaker who is trying to hard to fit what he sees into larger notions of communal behavior and social norms is a great time. Bart trying to impress the bullies and gain acceptance makes for some great bits and Lisa once again protesting, this time about light pollution all felt very true to the characters. And it is one of the funnier episodes of the season.
And the worst?
Old Yeller Belly: Despite having a wonderful guest star in Stacey Keach, this episode just falls so very flat. It has a ludicrous set up and an even more far fetched pay off, even for late Simpsons standards. These are the episodes that make you think the harsh internet critics might be right. Thankfully episodes like this are far less frequent then people would lead you to believe and at the end of the day it does have some pros to go along with it’s many, many cons.
The show was below the lofty average for a Simpsons season, but on an episode to episode basis there is a lot to enjoy in here, especially for a Simpsons fan. Another interesting note about this season is that it was the first to begin using computer colorization standard on all episodes, which makes the show looks great and doesn’t feel aged at all.
The Special Features:
This set is defined by the commentaries. The Simpsons sets are above and beyond any other shows that get regular full season releases. Every episode gets a sit down with principle cast and crew, including special guests such as Weird Al Yankovich and Stacey Keach. The commentaries themselves are almost as re-watchable as the episodes themselves and provide a great way to double your enjoyment for the whole set.
Aside from the commentaries you get deleted scenes, sketch galleries, and clip featurettes that showcase Halloween episode intros and Kang and Kodos appearances. These are nice, but they are just filler compared to the commentariers and episodes.
This set is stacked on the commentaries alone, but all the rest fill it out to being one of the better sets you can spend your money on, especially if you are a fan of animation.
The theme of this set is Kang and Kodos hosting a Halloween party. The box art is cute, as always, and the menus do an amazing job if being interesting and intuitive. The box does have the headache inducing slip out disc slots that seem almost certain to scratch the discs, but are more environmentally friendly.
The over all effect is right in line with the last bunch of Simpson sets which seem to change style every five years or so. Despite the disc issues, these have been my favorite set designs.
The Final Summation:
A strong set from a weak season. I loved almost every second of the commentaries and several key episodes, while others dragged the whole thing down at times. If you are a Simpsons fan you will need to have this set, I also think any one who loves animation should invest for the special features alone.
At the end of the day it is a great buy for the price and a ton of fun to dig into.